Law Firms Seek Review of Insurance Public Records Determination
Two law firms have asked the Florida Supreme Court to review a recent 1st DCA decision relating to the availability of certain public records maintained by the Florida Department of Financial Services. The litigation initially arose over the firms’ access to contact information for consumers participating in state-operated neutral evaluation or mediation programs. In the past, DFS made the information available. However, upon reviewing Section 624.23, Florida Statutes, DFS determined that it should not make the consumer contact available in response to public records requests. DFS later revised this position such that it will not provide consumer contact information when consumers request neutral evaluation or mediation, but will provide the information when insurers request the neutral evaluation or mediation.
The 1st DCA determined that Section 624.23 supports DFS’ decision to not provide the information related to consumer-requested neutral evaluations and mediations. The law firms involved, Danahy & Murray, P.A., and Bennett Dennison, PLLC, have now asked the Florida Supreme Court to declare Section 624.23 unconstitutional. The central issue in the case is whether the public necessity articulated for the statutory exemption is adequate to support this exception to Florida’s constitutional requirement for access to records. The law firms argue that if public access to consumers’ contact information is denied, Florida’s insurance consumers will be denied the opportunity to learn of legal assistance that may be available to them in insurance matters.