Roofers want entire SB 76 tossed
A second lawsuit has been filed this summer, this one seeking to throw-out the entire SB 76, Florida’s newest insurance reform law passed by the legislature last spring and signed into law by the Governor in June. The new law is designed to stem double-digit rate increases, misleading roof solicitations, costly claims practices, and excessive litigation. These factors are driving a contraction of the private homeowners market in Florida and the resulting expansion of the taxpayer-backed Citizens Property Insurance that we just discussed.
The Restoration Association of Florida, et al (RAF) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Secretary Julie Brown and Daniel Biggins, the executive director of the Construction Industry Licensing Board. The suit claims the law impinges on protected free-speech rights, interferes with contract law and commerce, and due process. The group has requested a preliminary injunction against the law’s enforcement which began July 1, but no hearing has been set.
DBPR, in its response, essentially stated that if contractors are going to act like adjusters (which some have been) then the legislature has simply responded by applying the same restrictions that currently exist on adjusters in Florida Chapter 626 to contractors by its changes in Chapter 489 (SB 76). Or colloquially, if you’re going to walk and quack like a duck, you’re a duck! DBPR also declared it wants to take an in-depth look at RAF’s co-plaintiffs’ (Apex Roofing & Reconstruction and John Casperson) advertising and other solicitation practices and their insurance-related business practices, which could be very interesting and revealing indeed.
Meanwhile, in the first lawsuit against the new law (Gale Force Roofing and Restoration of Hillsborough v. Julie Brown/DBPR) a preliminary injunction granted by the judge against enforcement of part of SB 76 remains in effect. The section at issue is the one which deals with: (1) prohibited advertisements and soliciting; (2) requiring that portions of the statute section be included in contracts; and (3) provides for disciplinary proceedings for violations of the section. (See Roofers Block Part of SB 76 For Now, from our July 12 newsletter.) Two more roofing firms have joined as interveners in the case: Sonshine Roofing and Florida Forever Roofing & Restoration. In late August, DBPR filed its formal answer to the suit, denying the allegations, but with a twist. DBPR is claiming an affirmative defense of “Unclean Hands,” noting that Gale Force, in its own filing, “represented to Florida homeowners or induced Florida homeowners into believing that the Plaintiff served as a ‘public adjuster,’ as defined in section 626.854(1) of the Florida Statutes.” What a delightful term! Who knew that momma’s colloquial advice about “unclean hands” also applied in jurisprudence?
Folks, this is a fight worth fighting – for insurance interests and consumers – as every day there are knocks on homeowners’ doors with offers of a “free roof” that are ultimately paid by all of us through higher insurance rates.
LMA Newsletter of 9-20-21