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Florida Supreme Court Rules in Favor Of Allowing Solicitation by Public Adjusters

Back in the year 2008, the Florida Legislature enacted a law preventing Public Adjusters from soliciting business from policyholders within 48 hours of a disaster. The purpose of the law was to prevent public adjusters from placing undue pressure onto people that were still traumatized by the disaster, before those people had even had an opportunity to settle their case with their insurance company. Proponents of the law argued that these policyholders may ended up needlessly hiring a public adjuster due to the pressure exerted while their insurer could have been more than willing to pay the policy.

Unhappy Public Adjusters

Obviously, public adjusters were not happy with this law. Therefore, one of them, Frank Kortum, sued the State claiming that the law violated the free speech rights of businesses and that the 48 initial hours were critical to prevent those same policyholders that the law intended to protected from making mistakes (like failing to preserve evidence or to find all the damage) that could end up costing them much more money.

Defending the government’s position, the Florida Department of Financial Services claimed that Public Adjusters were causing the costs of insurer’s claims (and thus, the premiums) to go up.

Supreme Court Ruling

The key issue in the case was whether solicitation by a public adjuster was protected speech under the Constitution. More specifically, whether the law applied to all forms of contact or just some. The statute read: “A public adjuster may not directly or indirectly through any other person or entity initiate contact or engage in face-to-face or telephonic solicitation or enter into a contract with any insured or claimant under an insurance policy until at least 48 hours after the occurrence of an event that may be the subject of a claim under the insurance policy unless contact is initiated by the insured or claimant.”

The Florida Supreme Court sided with Mr. Kortum and the public adjusters finding that solicitation from a public adjuster was as protected as an earlier case had found solicitation from a Certified Public Accountant to be. The Court subsequently found that the law was “not narrowly tailored to serve the State’s interests in ensuring ethical conduct by public adjusters and protecting homeowners’ as claimed by the Department of Financial Services”. Therefore, it is now up to the legislature to come up with language that is adequate under the Constitution.

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