Lawyers disgraced for using fake info from ChatGPT in South Africa court


South African lawyers arguing a case at the regional court in Johannesburg were called out for using fake precedents generated by ChatGPT.

According to Sunday Times, the unnamed lawyers were representing a woman who was suing the trustees of a company for defamation. While the company’s lawyers argued that trustees could not be sued for defamation, the plaintiff’s lawyers argued that South African courts had—in previous cases—judged that trustees could in fact be sued.

The judge then postponed the hearing for two months to allow the lawyers time to find the precedents they needed to prove their case. Unfortunately, the lawyers could not track down the case manually and instead asked ChatGPT for citations. While the citations were for real cases, they had nothing to do with defamation.

In the judgement against the plaintiff, Judge Chaitram called out the lawyers stating that they were, “simultaneously simply overzealous and careless.”

“The embarrassment associated with this incident is probably sufficient punishment for the plaintiff’s attorneys,” said Chaitram.

This is the second case where lawyers have used ChatGPT to source for cases, and failed.

In May this year, a US law firm was fined $5,000 after one of its lawyers used ChatGPT to cite bogus cases. It’s also one of the many cases where ChatGPT and similar services have provided false information to users.


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