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Courts / Law

May Trial Set In Challenge To Insurance Law

Gavel

The challenge to a measure passed in April was filed by Hillsborough County-based Gale Force Roofing and Restoration, LLC.

After issuing a preliminary injunction, a federal judge has scheduled a May 2022 trial in a challenge to a key part of a property-insurance measure passed by state lawmakers.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued an order Friday scheduling a May 16 start of a trial in the challenge filed by Hillsborough County-based Gale Force Roofing and Restoration, LLC. The company and the state also could file motions for summary judgment, which, if granted, could short-circuit the need for a trial.

The case centers on part of the law designed to prevent contractors from advertising to spur property owners to file roof-damage claims. Lawmakers passed the measure (SB 76) on April 30 amid spiraling property-insurance rates and insurers dropping policies.

The bill’s supporters and insurance-industry officials argued that questionable, if not fraudulent, roof-damage claims have played a big role in driving up costs.

But in the lawsuit, Gale Force argues that the restrictions on advertising violate speech rights. Walker in July backed the company’s arguments, issuing a preliminary injunction to at least temporarily block the restrictions.

In part, Walker wrote that it is “clear that the threatened injuries to plaintiff (Gale Force) from banning plaintiff’s truthful commercial speech outweighs the state’s interest in preventing fraud, protecting consumers from exploitation, and stabilizing the insurance market.”

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