Following a roofing contractor’s lawsuit, Florida officials are requesting additional time to respond to the suit’s claims that the state's new insurance reform law violates First Amendment rights.
According to the Business Observer, the Florida Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is requesting a seven-day extension to respond to the lawsuit filed by Gale Force Roofing and Restoration. The initial response was due Aug. 12.
The Business Observer reports Julie Brown, head of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, asked for an extension due to one of their attorneys preparing the response coming down with a sudden illness. The attorney for Gale Force Roofing said all parties involved agreed on the extension. The response is expected to be submitted on or before Aug. 20.
Gale Force Roofing filed its lawsuit on June 11, the day SB 76 was signed into law, saying the law's restrictions on roofing contractors preventing them from contacting customers to file an insurance claim for roof damage violated free speech rights.
“Contractors were singled out in this, and prohibitive language that was used against us just really fell outside the guidelines of the principles of the bill that they were trying to pass,” said Alex Gerhart, principal at Gale Force Roofing.
The intent of the law is to prevent unscrupulous roofing companies from using the assignment of benefits to collect money for roofing work that is shoddy or incomplete. The law limited roofing contractors from communicating with customers, including written or electronic advertising, about potentially filing claims.
“For us not to be able to provide that truthful information and give them the advice that we know, or the background that we have with these claims, it can really affect homeowners,” said Zach Willard, principal with Gale Force Roofing.
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted an injunction on July 11, agreeing that this portion of the law doesn’t indicate that the ban only applies to speech that is “misleading, fraudulent, or concerning illegal activity.”
Prior to the injunction, roofing contractors caught in violation of the law could have faced a $10,000 fine per incident and the suspension of their license. Gale Force Roofing said it supports cracking down on contractors manipulating the insurance industry, but lawmakers didn’t go about it the right way.
“We are thrilled Judge Walker carefully reviewed this case and this statute and believe he made the right decision that will ultimately serve to protect consumers in the state of Florida and ensure the Constitution remains the guidepost for future regulations,” said Willard.