Attorney Lands in Hot Water for Using ChatGPT to Create Fiction-Filled Brief in Suit Against Avianca
A U.S. lawyer is facing possible sanctions after submitting a brief in a suit against Colombian airline Avianca that was found to contain false information and citations related to case law that doesn’t exist, errors that the attorney says were included because he used ChatGPT to generate the document.
Steven Schwartz, an attorney at Levidow, Levidow & Oberman in the United States, now faces a sanctions hearing on June 8 to determine his punishment after the presiding judge determined the brief to contain “bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations.”
Schwartz was representing Roberto Mata in his suit against Avianca Airlines for a claim of negligence due to an injury he alleges that he suffered due to being hit by a serving cart while on a flight to New York.
The fiction-filled brief cited multiple cases of purported airline negligence, including Martinez v. Delta Air Lines, Zicherman v. Korean Air Lines, Petersen v. Iran Air, Miller v. United Airlines, the Estate of Durden v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Varghese v. China Southern Airlines.
After they were unable to find the cited cases, lawyers from Condon & Forsyth working on Avianca’s defense filed an affidavit in April questioning their authenticity.
The judge presiding over the case, Hon. P. Kevin Castel, has called the incident “an unprecedented circumstance” due to the fake, AI-generated cases cited in the 10-page brief. He has demanded Schwartz to defend himself “for the use of a false and fraudulent notarization” or face sanctions.
Schwartz admitted that, when tasked with conducting legal research, he used ChatGPT extensively as a way of helping him find cases. It seems that ChatGPT hallucinated 12 non-existent cases, and a record of the conversation shows him receiving reassurance from the AI regarding the veracity of the information provided.
When Schwartz asked the technology to confirm whether Varghese v. China South Airlines was real, the AI responded with the following: “Upon double-checking, I found the case Varghese v. China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd., 925 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2019), does indeed exist and can be found on legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion my earlier responses may have caused.”
Schwartz has apologized for improperly using AI, saying that he “greatly regrets having utilized generative artificial intelligence to supplement the legal research performed herein and will never do so in the future without absolute verification of its authenticity.”
Peter Loduca, the attorney of record whose name is on the brief, has said in a statement to the court that he did not have anything to do with the legal research behind the brief and that he did not have reason to doubt Schwartz or his research’s authenticity.