Lawyer Faces Sanctions After Suing Airline, Filing ChatGPT-Written Brief Without Checking Facts First

On August 27, 2019 passenger Roberto Mata was hit with a galley cart on board Avianca flight 670 from San Salvador to New York JFK. The man sued, and the airline sought to have the suit tossed because the statute of limitations had lapsed.

His attorneys argued that Avianca’s bankruptcy caused the statute of limitations to toll, allowing the suit, and they filed a brief to that effect written entirely by ChatGPT which they… did not check at all first.

  • I’m a huge fan of AI and ChatGPT in particular, though I’ve never used it to write a blog post. I’m not so much a fan of it for what it can do today, though it’s quite a lot when you think that eight months ago very few people knew it was even coming. What I marvel at is thinking about what it’ll be able to do in 5 and 10 years.

  • Today, though, you still need to check its work. It trains on information available on the internet, and the median person on the internet isn’t super thoughtful or accurate. People want so-called fake news. And ChatGPT doesn’t just train on public online data, it now has internet access for those with paid subscriptions.

The brief contained five cases that didn’t exist, such as

  • Varghese v. China Southern Airlines dealing with China Southern’s bankruptcy. Only China Southern hasn’t ever filed for bankruptcy. Yet whole quotes from the case were cited.

  • Zicherman v. Korean Air Lines, a 1996 case which it claimed was from 2008.

The AI-written brief also discussed EgyptAir’s Amsterdam – Chicago route. EgyptAir does not fly, and has not ever flown, Amsterdam – Chicago which is currently the exclusive province of United and KLM. Here’s the judge’s order saying what the actual bonk for the plaintiff’s attorney to show cause why he shouldn’t be sanctioned.

The lawyer in the case used the Shaggy Defense (‘wasn’t me’) to say that another lawyer in the first wrote the brief, and that lawyer says he did it with ChatGPT and didn’t check what the AI chatbot had produced.

Apparently the attorney who wrote the brief was working on the case, it was moved to the Southern District of New York where he wasn’t admitted to practice, so another attorney at his firm filed the brief.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. If your name is on the pleading, you are responsible for what’s in it.

    Only question is how much the sanctions will be.

  2. These blog posts may not be written by chat g t p but they are clearly written using Speech to text which is why many times a word will be missing out of the sentence

  3. So glad to see an ambulance chaser get shut down. The whole concept of “if something goes wrong or I’m hurt in any way I want to sue someone” has to end. Grow up snowflakes. S**t happens and you deal with it. Everything isn’t a lottery ticket.

  4. The brief contained five cases that didn’t exist

    Aha! In trouble because of an AI’s fabrications aptly referred to “hallucinations”!

  5. ChatGPT produces a lot of junk that is inaccurate. It can’t even very reliably identify the junk it made up.

    But also people tasked with or tasking themselves to identify AI/ChatGPT-generated content are unreliable even with this weird idea that the use of words connoting accuracy to cover various circumstances are an indicative flag — word choices such as may, may be, might, often, perhaps, possibly, sometimes, typically, generally, usually, routinely, etc.

  6. 1KBrad, sanctions can be many things and don’t always contain a monetary fine. A sanction against a lawyer could include limiting or loss of license to practice law either permanently or temporary and that could be more damaging than a typical monetary fine. They could also not allow practicing in some courts without a total loss of license.

  7. @jns: In this case it will be monetary sanctions.

    Attorney suspensions and revocations are handled by the State Bar, not individual courts.

    A federal court could limit the right of appearance, but that would be extraordinarily rare.

Comments are closed.