supreme court

State Argues Citrus Fight Not Finished

Tacy CalliesIndustry News Release

The legal battle involving homeowners and citrus canker may not be over.

Though the state last month paid more than $19 million in the case, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services wants the state Supreme Court to resolve underlying legal issues in a nearly two-decade battle about the state cutting down Lee County homeowners’ healthy citrus trees.

On Aug. 13, the Supreme Court dismissed the case as moot because the state paid a judgment. But the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on Aug. 19 asked the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision to dismiss the case. The department cited an earlier brief that said, in part, underlying legal issues need to be addressed that could affect similar cases involving Miami-Dade and Orange counties.

The Lee County class-action lawsuit was filed against the department in 2003 for cutting down 33,957 healthy citrus trees on 11,811 residential properties as part of an effort to stop citrus canker disease, according to court documents. 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.

The 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.

Source: News Service of Florida