Approximately 12,000 Lee County homeowners in Florida will receive checks in early January as compensation for citrus trees destroyed in the state’s citrus canker eradication program, according to attorney Robert Gilbert. Gilbert was the lead counsel representing the homeowners in a class action lawsuit for the past 17 years.
According to Gilbert, the residential trees that were destroyed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services were not infected with canker.
Roughly half of the homeowners will receive checks ranging from $458 to $1,000, while the other half will receive checks greater than $1,000, Gilbert stated. The check amounts are based on the number of eligible trees destroyed at each homeowner’s property, less any state-issued compensation previously used by the homeowner.
The Lee County class action lawsuit was filed in 2003. In 2014, following two trials, the circuit court in Lee County entered a judgment that awarded the homeowners full compensation for the destruction of their property, Gilbert reported. But it took until 2020, and a court order directing the department to immediately pay the full amounts due, for the department to pay the $19.1 million due, he added.
In October 2020, Lee Circuit Judge Keith Kyle concluded the appropriate method for calculating payments to eligible Lee homeowners was $285.25 per tree, based on the 2014 jury verdict, Gilbert stated. On Nov. 23, Kyle authorized distribution of payments to eligible Lee County homeowners.
Each check will include a personal identification number that homeowners can use on a website to see how their compensation payment was determined. Gilbert said the department kept records of the number of trees cut down at each property and the amount, if any, each homeowner previously used as $100 Shade Florida (Walmart) debit cards and/or $55 per-tree statutory payments.
Learn more about the canker lawsuit here.
Source: Robert C. Gilbert, P.A.