ChatGPT has invented cases like "Petersen vs. Iran Air" and "Martinez vs. Delta Airlines."
Photo: DADO RUVIC / REUTERS
A U.S. judge on Thursday fined two New York lawyers for filing a brief containing six fictitious case citations generated by ChatGPT. Lawyers Steven Schwartz, Peter LoDuca and their law firm Levidow, Levidow & Oberman have to pay a total of $5000,<>.
The background to this is a case in which a passenger filed a lawsuit against the airline Avianca because he was allegedly injured in the knee by a serving trolley on one of its planes. A motion filed by the passenger's lawyers included references to cases such as "Petersen v. Iran Air" or "Martinez v. Delta Airlines," which never happened. According to Schwartz, the alleged judgments, including supposedly matching file numbers, were issued by ChatGPT. With the help of databases on judgments, however, he could have checked them himself and, according to U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan, should have done so. Castel found that Schwartz and LoDuca acted in bad faith and "made false and misleading statements to the court."
The firm denied this: "We were bona fide because we didn't believe that a piece of technology could invent cases out of thin air," the firm's statement said.
According to the judge, the use of AI is not generally inadmissible
Schwartz had used ChatGPT to research the brief in a client's personal injury case against the Colombian airline – and unknowingly inserted the wrong citations. Avianca's lawyers first alerted the court in March that they could not find some of the cases cited in the brief. But it wasn't until May that Schwartz admitted that he had been using OpenAI's software.
Judge Castel wrote in the sanctions order that it was not "intrinsically inadmissible" for lawyers to use artificial intelligence "to assist". However, the rules of ethics for lawyers would "impose a control function on lawyers to ensure the accuracy of their submissions". In addition, Schwartz and LoDuca had held on to their expert opinion even after the court and the airline had already questioned the existence of the cited cases. His order states that the two lawyers must now inform the (all real) judges who have been identified as the authors of the fake cases about the sanction.
In a separate injunction, Castel granted Avianca's motion to dismiss the lawsuit because it was filed too late. Bart Banino, an attorney for Avianca, said the court made the "right conclusion" by dismissing the assault lawsuit, quite apart from the lawyers' use of ChatGPT.