Citrus Legal Fight Dismissed After Payment

Tacy CalliesIndustry News Release

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After the Legislature provided money and a check was sent, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed a nearly two-decade legal battle over the state cutting down Lee County homeowners’ healthy citrus trees.

Lawmakers this year approved spending more than $19 million to pay a judgment in the class-action lawsuit, which stemmed from trees being cut down amid efforts to stop the spread of citrus canker disease. The lawsuit was filed against the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in 2003 for taking 33,957 healthy citrus trees on 11,811 residential properties, according to an appeals-court decision.

In 2014, after a jury trial, the Lee County homeowners were awarded $13.625 million plus interest, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees. But after the state did not pay the judgment, the case went back to court, with a circuit judge and the 2nd District Court of Appeal ordering the payments. The rulings said the state had violated a constitutional ban on taking property without paying full compensation.

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The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services appealed to the Supreme Court. But lawmakers in March included money in the budget to pay the judgment, with a check for $19,173,978 sent last month to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, according to a copy of the check filed at the Supreme Court. On Aug. 13, justices dismissed the case as moot and also granted the plaintiffs’ motion for attorney fees. The amount of fees will be determined by a circuit judge.

Source: News Service of Florida

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