Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Currently Not Too Happy with One Volunteer
By: Chris Kramer
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is not necessarily "mad as hell" but certainly unhappy with a Sarasota personal injury attorney who improperly used the group's logo on promotional glasses advertising his law firm's hotline number.
Apparently "not going to take it anymore," MADD has asked Florida attorney Jeffrey Luhrsen to stop using its logo on promotional glasses that he had given away to visitors of his law firm and people at a Bradenton street festival.
It turns out that the glasses included the MADD logo on one side and a misleading "hot line" phone number on the other side. Nowhere on the glass did Luhrsen reveal where the number actually rang to: his law firm's hotline.
Many people have argued that Luhrsen created the impression that the number was for MADD. Callers quickly learned that it was not when they dialed and got Luhrsen's personal injury firm; thus leading to the allegations that Luhrsen piggy-backed off the MADD logo to improve his own business.
MADD also asked Luhrsen to remove online advertising which once again featured the MADD logo and his firm's phone number without any acknowledgement of what the number was for. Luhrsen recently changed the ad.
MADD national spokeswoman Misty Moyes reiterated in a Herald Tribune story that the organization is about DUI prevention and not about promoting businesses.
Florida MADD director Don Murray said that the drinking glasses cross-promoted brands and implied that the organization endorsed Luhrsen's personal injury firm. Ironically, Murray posed the idea to include the MADD logo on the glasses, which were made for Luhrsen after he sponsored a MADD golf outing. Murray certainly was troubled when he saw the end result of the glasses.
Luhrsen has said that he will not give away any more of the controversial glasses. He was also quoted in the Herald Tribune story as saying that it is a "pretty far reach" to assume that someone would equate the MADD logo and the phone number as being for the same thing. Apparently, MADD members and fellow attorneys don't feel the same way.
Specifically, some lawyers have said that Luhrsen has violated ethics and should have made it clear especially in the online advertising that he was soliciting business. Other attorneys have said that such misleading advertising would give Luhrsen an unfair advantage over other personal injury attorneys looking to target DUI cases.
Luhrsen's Relationship with MADD
Adding even more intrigue to this incident, the Herald Tribune story also detailed another potential conflict of interest between Luhrsen and MADD. It turns out that the organization, specifically Murray, hired the wife of Luhrsen's office manager to be the Manasota MADD victim advocate last year. That position includes contacting people after drunk driving accidents and providing them with resources including law firms.
MADD said in the story that it was comfortable with the relationship between the advocate in question, Lavonne Brower, and Luhrsen's law firm, and that there are many volunteers throughout the country who have connections to a law firm. Luhrsen added in the story that Brower does not point people to his law firm but rather gives them a list of attorneys to choose from.
Prior to this drinking glass controversy and conflict of interest issues, Luhrsen had allegedly done some good while volunteering for MADD. He's already received numerous awards from MADD this year for lobbying on behalf of the organization in Tallahassee. It will be interesting to see where the relationship between Luhrsen and MADD goes from here.