TALLAHASSEE – A group of contractors and a roofing company have launched a battle in federal court over the state’s restrictions on roofing workers to try to curb problems in the property insurance system.
The Florida Rehabilitation Association and Apex Roofing & Reconstruction LLC filed a revised lawsuit Monday, challenging the constitutionality of restrictions approved by lawmakers in 2021 and during a special legislative session last month.
The case alleges, in part, that the restrictions infringe the rights of the First Amendment, as they deal with issues such as advertising and the ability to advise homeowners on insurance coverage. During a special session last month, for example, lawmakers asked roofers to waive responsibility for advertising, a requirement that the lawsuit described as “excessively burdensome.”
“Disclaimers also constitute prohibited discrimination of content under the First Amendment, as it imposes only a small set of commercial roofers – forced speech, which, if otherwise valid, is equally applicable to a wide range of commercial participants. , including doctors, car repair shops and other real estate repair and rehabilitation companies, regarding payments of insurance deductions and fraudulent insurance claims, ”the lawsuit states.
Roof claims are a key issue as lawmakers tackle widespread problems in the property insurance system that involve insurers who turn down customers and seek large interest rate increases. Insurers accuse dubious, if not fraudulent, claims of roof damage to increase costs and contribute to financial losses.
In 2021, legislators adopted a measure (SB 76) that imposed a series of restrictions on roofers, including seeking to prevent roofers from inviting homeowners to file insurance claims through “prohibited advertising”. The law defines prohibited advertising as “any written or electronic communication by a contractor that encourages, instructs or encourages the consumer to contact a contractor or public regulator in order to make an insurance claim for damage to the roof. The term includes, but is not limited to, door hangers, business cards, magnets, flyers, brochures and emails. ”
In a separate lawsuit filed last year by Gale Force Roofing & Restoration LLC, U.S. Chief Justice Mark Walker issued a preliminary injunction against the advertising restriction under the First Amendment.
This prompted lawmakers to revise the advertising restriction during a special session last month. They adopted a measure (SB 2-D) that required advertisements to include a disclaimer on matters such as informing consumers that they were required to pay a deduction and that it was fraudulent to file insurance claims that included false or misleading information. Ads that do not include a disclaimer will be considered prohibited.
Walker dismissed the Gale Force case on June 10 after lawyers said he was in dispute over the change.
But that didn’t resolve the case, which the Florida Rehabilitation Association and Apex filed last year. This case challenged the advertising restriction, along with other parts of the 2021 law that impose restrictions on roofers.
U.S. District Judge Alan Windsor in January rejected the association’s and Apex’s request for a preliminary injunction against the law, saying the plaintiffs had not shown they had authority. As a result, the plaintiffs reconsidered the lawsuit in January and again on Monday, according to the court decision.
In addition to challenging the denial of advertising, the lawsuit alleges that a number of restrictions violate the First Amendment and the rights of due process and the commercial clause of the US Constitution.
As an example, the law passed in 2021 does not allow roofers to interpret “policy provisions or to advise the insured (client) on the coverage or liabilities of the insured’s property insurance policy or to adjust a property insurance claim on behalf of the insured. the insured, unless the contractor holds a license for a public regulator ‘.
The case alleges that the restriction violates the rights of the First Amendment.
“The ban is so comprehensive that under its terms the roof contractor may not notify the insured that the damage to the roof is probably covered by their policy and that he must call his insurer to check this or that the policy allows the owner of the roof. the home to assign benefits to the roof contractor, a mechanism that allows the roof contractor to enter the insured’s shoes and file a claim directly with the insurer for the covered repair, “the lawsuit states.
In addition to the federal case, the restoration association is also a party to two lawsuits challenging parts of laws passed during a special session last month.
In one of these cases, the association and Florida Premier Roofing LLC challenged the constitutionality of a law (SB 4-D) that combines changes in property insurance with new requirements aimed at improving the safety of condominium buildings. The case alleges that the bill is unconstitutional because it connects “voluminous individual entities, violating a constitutional requirement of the state that laws deal with individual entities.”
In another Leon County case, the association and Air Quality Assessors LLC, a company in Orlando that works as mold testing and leak detection, challenged part of SB 2-D, which imposed a new limit on attorney’s fees in lawsuits against insurance companies. .
Both cases in Leon County remain pending.