A public adjusting firm is threatening to sue a Florida blogger after he claimed the firm’s name made it sound like it was a governmental agency as it solicited business from homeowners insured by the state-backed property insurer.
The United States Adjusters threatened the suit against a blogger at Johnson Strategies, an insurance advocacy firm, after he named the firm as part of investigation into the role played by public adjusters handling claims from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.
In a letter to Johnson Strategies, the public adjusting firm said the blogger needed to “cease and desist and remove our name right away. Failure to do so will result in a suit, naming you for damage to our reputation.”
The blogger, Scott Johnson is a former executive with the Florida Association of Insurance Agents.
Johnson, said he would not retract from using the public adjusters firm name as a matter of free speech. He also noted that in over 400 blogs written in the past two years he has never had to make a correction. However, he said, in an abundance of caution he would seek legal counsel to look into the matter.
“In light of being threatened and to keep my record for due diligence, it seems appropriate to look deeper, consult counsel and eliminate any potential that I may have missed something,” the blogger wrote.
The controversy arose after the blogger provided a list of public adjusters that had handled over $46 million in Citizens claims. In commenting on the list, the blogger noted that the firm’s name “seems intended to make policyholders think they are with the government.”
The blogger noted that under Florida law, firms that use a logo “that implies that the solicitation was issued or distributed by a governmental agency or is sanctioned or endorsed by a governmental agency,” could be found guilty of engaging in deceptive or misleading trade practices. He also pointed out that federal law prohibits the use of the word “United States” by insurance entities since it can be construed as false advertising.
“Whether using “United States” or USA is a violation of anything is up to the Department of Financial Services or the feds,” wrote the blogger. “But, the words above are those of Florida lawmakers obviously concerned about the possibility of misleading solicitations by public adjusters, particularly after a catastrophe when people turn to governmental agencies for help.”
R Street Florida Director Christian Camara said that the United States Adjusters attempt to limit the blogger’s right to free speech is without merit. He also questioned the thinking behind the public adjuster’s threatening legal action.
“What would make a business threaten a lawsuit, knowing that it will likely draw more attention to a negative story and broaden the seemingly narrow-issue audience of a critical blog,” Camara said.
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