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Florida House bill takes aim attorney fees, roofing costs

By News Service of Florida Jan 20, 2021, 1:44pm EST

In what could be an opening salvo in a legislative debate about property insurance, a House Republican has filed a proposal that takes aim at attorney fees and would allow insurers to limit reimbursements for repairing and replacing roofs. 

Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples, filed the proposal (HB 305) on Tuesday amid concerns about double-digit rate increases and a surge in homeowners getting coverage through the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. 

The bill, in part, would limit plaintiffs’ attorney fees in some property-insurance lawsuits by restricting what are known as “contingency risk multipliers.” 

Florida has long allowed plaintiffs to collect attorney fees when they prevail in cases against insurance companies, with the amounts typically set by a calculation of the number of hours spent on a case and a reasonable hourly rate. But courts also can approve contingency risk multipliers that increase the fees. 

Under the bill, however, contingency risk multipliers could only be awarded “in a rare and exceptional circumstance with evidence that competent counsel could not be retained in a reasonable manner.” 

The bill also would allow insurers to use what is described as a “roof surface reimbursement schedule.” Under the proposal, reimbursements could vary based on ages and types of roofs. 

For example, insurers would be required to provide full replacement coverage for roofs less than 10 years old. But they would be allowed to provide less coverage for other roofs. 

The insurance industry and state officials such as Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier say litigation is playing a key role in driving up insurance costs. Also, they contend that insurers are getting hit with questionable or fraudulent roofing claims.

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