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Law Firm's Viral TV Ad Leads to $1 Million Suit

An actress who starred in a popular advertisement for a New York personal injury law firm has filed a suit alleging that the agency that produced the spot licensed the ad and her image to law firms around the country without her knowledge and without compensating her. She's seeking close to $1 million in compensation from the agency and the other law firms that licensed the ad.

Elena Aroaz appeared in a 2009 advertisement for Trolman, Glaser & Lichtman that spoofed gold-digging personal injury plaintiffs. The ad, called "Machete," featured Aroaz sitting at a table discussing an injury in grave tones, with mournful piano music as the background score. "The pain was excruciating," she says. "It's like I had this huge, really sharp machete chopping down on me every time I tried to move."

Soon, the nature of the wound is revealed: "It was the worst paper cut I ever had. They made that paper way too sharp." Aroaz raises one index finger with a green bandage on it, saying, "Someone has to pay." Text on the screen reads, "There are some cases even we can't win." As the contact information for the law firm appears, a voiceover says: "If you've been injured, call us. But keep in mind, you really need to be injured."

The ad had a companion spot, "Power," in which a tearful man describes his "pain and suffering" at the hands of the power company when an outage interrupted the best video game of his life. The two Trolman, Glaser & Lichtman advertisements were featured in a 2010 New York Times article for their noteworthy use of (intentional) humor in promoting personal injury legal services. A post on the Lawyerist blog just a couple of months ago included the ads as examples of successful viral video legal marketing.

The New York Daily News reports that Aroaz claims in her suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, that she was paid $600 to appear in the ad and was told that it would air for a year on cable TV in New York. Instead, the suit alleges, the Levinson Tractenberg Group licensed the ad to law firms in New Mexico, Washington, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Kansas, South Carolina and Colorado, earning $250,000.

According to her suit, after Aroaz found out that her face was on a billboard in Arizona, she confronted Levinson Tractenberg and was paid another $1,500 in 2012, the Daily News writes. Aroaz says she later discovered that the firm had paid $20,000 for the rights.

The New York Post reports that Aroaz's suit claims the ads are still airing and "turn a very large profit at the expense of and to the detriment of the plaintiff." She also claims she has been typecast as a result of the ads, the Post writes.

Posted by Laurel Newby on June 11, 2013 at 04:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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