An attorney with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that claims new insurance laws violate the First Amendment rights of roofing contractors
According to a story from CBS News, the Restoration Association of Florida and Apex Roofing & Reconstruction LLC filed a lawsuit stating the law, passed in 2021 and during a May 2022 special legislative session, restricts roofing contractors by requiring them to add disclosures to advertising. The 29-page motion to dismiss the lawsuit says the plaintiffs haven’t shown legal standing to pursue such claims, CBS reports.
Florida recently passed a number of laws in an effort to combat rising property insurance costs. Legislators claim a main source for price hikes is due to roofing claims. In 2021, they passed SB 76, which placed multiple restrictions on roofing contractors, including the requirement of prohibiting them from soliciting homeowners to file insurance claims through a “prohibited advertisement.” These are any written or electronic communications that encourage, induce or instructs customers to contact a contractor or public adjuster to make an insurance claim for roof damage.
SB 76 was initially blocked in a separate lawsuit filed by Gale Force Roofing and Restoration on First Amendment grounds, so legislators revised it in May. The amended language became part of a larger insurance bill, SB 2-D, which was signed into law May 26 of this year. Under the new law, contractors must include disclosures in advertisements that state:
- Consumers are responsible for paying the insurance deductible.
- It’s insurance fraud punishable as a felony for a contractor to knowingly pay, waive or rebate all or part of an insurance deductible.
- It’s insurance fraud to intentionally file an insurance claim containing any false or misleading information.
Restoration Association of Florida and Apex Roofing & Reconstruction LLC filed their lawsuit in 2021 and an amended version on June 27. The lawsuit claims the new law violates First Amendment rights related to advertising and being able to advise homeowners on insurance coverage issues.
“It imposes, solely on a small set of commercial speakers — roofing contractors — compelled speech that, if otherwise valid, is equally applicable to a wide range of commercial actors, including doctors, automobile repair shops, and other property repair and remediation companies, about payments of insurance deductibles and fraudulent insurance claims," the lawsuit states.
The motion states the lawsuit doesn’t address how including disclosures on items like door hangers, business cards, magnets or flyers would be “unduly burdensome,” adding the plaintiffs’ case is based on a “misreading” of the law. It also points out how the assignment of benefits — when homeowners sign over benefits to contractors, who in turn seek payment from insurance companies — is a business practice prevalent in the roofing industry.
"The Legislature's solution took the form of (the law), which prohibits certain property insurance-related practices by contractors,” the motion states. “A year later, Florida's property insurance market remains in crisis — so much so that the governor called a special legislative session to address it."
The motion will be considered by U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor.