A contractors group and a roofing firm have refueled a federal-court fight about restrictions the state placed on roofers to try to curb problems in the property-insurance system.
The Restoration Association of Florida and Apex Roofing Reconstruction, LLC, filed a revised lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of restrictions approved by lawmakers in 2021 and during a special legislative session last month.
The lawsuit contends, in part, that the restrictions violate First Amendment rights as they deal with issues such as advertising and being able to advise homeowners about insurance coverage. During last month’s special session, for example, lawmakers required roofers to put disclaimers on advertising — a requirement that the lawsuit described as “unduly burdensome.”
“(The) disclaimers also constitute forbidden content discrimination under the First Amendment because 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 said.
Lawmakers in 2021 passed a measure (SB 76) that placed a series of restrictions on roofers, including seeking to prevent roofing contractors from soliciting homeowners to file insurance claims through a “prohibited advertisement.” The law defined a prohibited advertisement as “any written or electronic communication by a contractor that encourages, instructs, or induces a consumer to contact a contractor or public adjuster for the purpose of making an insurance claim for roof damage. The term includes, but is not limited to, door hangers, business cards, magnets, flyers, pamphlets, and emails.”
In a separate lawsuit filed last year by Gale Force Roofing Restoration LLC, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a preliminary injunction against the advertising restriction on First Amendment grounds. That led lawmakers during last month’s special session to revamp the advertising restriction.
They passed a measure (SB 2-D) that required advertisements to include disclaimers about issues such as informing consumers that they are required to pay any deductibles and that it is fraudulent to file insurance claims that include false or misleading information. Advertisements that do not include the disclaimers would be considered prohibited.
Walker on June 10 dismissed the Gale Force lawsuit after attorneys said it was moot because of the change.
U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor in January rejected a request by the association and Apex for a preliminary injunction against the law, saying the plaintiffs had not shown they had legal standing. As a result, the plaintiffs revised the lawsuit in January and again Monday, according to a court docket.
In addition to challenging the advertising disclaimers, the lawsuit argues that a series of the restrictions violate First Amendment and due-process rights and the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. As an example, the law passed in 2021 prevents roofing contractors from interpreting “policy provisions or advising an insured (customer) regarding coverages or duties under the insured’s property insurance policy or adjusting a property insurance claim on behalf of the insured, unless the contractor holds a license as a public adjuster.”
The lawsuit contends the restriction violates First Amendment rights.