When annuity marketing material needs a little embellishment, that can be a big problem in court.
American Income Life Insurance Co. is suing Google Inc. and the unnamed owners of two websites for featuring unflattering web pages in the top page of search results for American Income Life Insurance.
The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court for Jefferson County, is brought under the Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Google uses a patented "page rank" algorithm, called the "black box" algorithm, to determine which sites are the best sources of information, according to the lawsuit. American Income Life Insurance said content from two websites, including www.scam.com, is prominently featured in web searches for American Income Life Insurance.
Those two results falsely assert that "American Income Life is a scam," the lawsuit said. The lawsuit was filed against Google directly, as well as the unnamed owners of the websites.
In a May 20, 2010 letter to Google, included with the lawsuit, William J. Baxley, an attorney for American Income Life Insurance, points out the problem and asks Google to move those "scam" websites to the second page of results.
After examination, "you will understand my clients are reasonable in having me complain to you...regarding the prominent 'page one' placement that Google has afforded them by allowing manipulation of its 'black box' algorithm for their corrupt purposes," Baxley said in the letter.
The life insurer has lost would-be job applicants who see the "scam" websites, he said.
A letter to Baxley signed by "the Google Team" said Google would not take any action in the matter, and encouraged American Income Life Insurance to "resolve any disputes with the owner of the website in question."
"If you pursue legal action against these sites that results in removal of the offending material, our search results will display this change after we next crawl the site," Google said in its response.
While American Income Life said its sustained damages that "exceed millions of dollars" as a result of these web searches, it said it would limit recovery to $75,000, according to the suit.
Attempts to reach American Income Life Insurance and Google for comment were not immediately successful.
American Income Life Insurance, a Torchmark Corp., shares management, investment and administrative capabilities with its immediate parent company, Globe Life & Accident Insurance Co, according to BestLink.
American Income Life Insurance is an Indiana corporation with headquarters in Waco, Texas. It markets its ordinary life insurance products in the relatively underserved labor union marketplace, according to BestLink.
American Income Life Insurance currently has a Best's Financial Strength Rating of A+ (Superior).
(By Meg Green, senior associate editor, BestWeek: Meg.Green@ambest.com)