SOURCE: Grossman Roth

Grossman Roth

October 07, 2014 14:49 ET

$20.7 Million Awarded to Orange County Homeowners in Citrus Canker Lawsuit

Orange County Homeowners Recover Compensation for State's Destruction of Healthy Trees Under Failed Citrus Canker Program

ORLANDO, FL--(Marketwired - Oct 7, 2014) - Late yesterday, an Orange County jury awarded $20.7 million in compensation in a class action lawsuit brought by Robert C. Gilbert of Grossman Roth, P.A. on behalf of thousands of Orange County homeowners whose healthy citrus trees were destroyed under the state's failed citrus canker eradication program. The compensation trial, held before Orange County Circuit Judge Patricia Doherty, followed the court's 2013 decision finding the Florida Department of Agriculture liable to pay full compensation for 60,174 healthy residential citrus trees that were destroyed at 18,280 Orange County homes between July 2002 and January 2006. The compensation trial, which lasted for two weeks, ended with the 12-person jury deciding that the average value for each of the 60,174 trees was $344.16. The jury also decided that the Department of Agriculture is not entitled to a credit for the WalMart gift cards that were issued and used by some of the affected Orange County homeowners.

Homeowners' lead counsel Robert C. Gilbert commented: "We are extremely appreciative of the jury's verdict. After hearing evidence from both sides, the jury decided that the 60,174 healthy citrus trees owned by thousands of Orange County homeowners were worth far more than the paltry sum suggested by the Department. None of these trees were infected with citrus canker, but the Department destroyed them in an effort to protect Florida's commercial citrus industry. The Florida Constitution guarantees full compensation to private property owners when their property is taken for a public purpose. That is the principle at issue here. Commissioner Putnam and the Department of Agriculture are trying to deny thousands of Florida homeowners full compensation for their private property. By doing so, they are showing a lack of respect for the constitutional rights of Florida citizens. Sadly, this is another example of politicians placing the interests of big business above those of ordinary citizens."

This is the latest trial in a series of class action lawsuits brought against the Department of Agriculture resulting from the destruction of hundreds of thousands of healthy residential citrus trees across Florida. In July 2014, a Lee County jury awarded $9.8 million for 33,957 healthy citrus trees owned by 11,811 Lee County homeowners. The Commissioner of Agriculture and the Department have appealed that judgment.

About Grossman Roth, P.A.
Grossman Roth, P.A. started in October 1988 with a singular purpose -- to fight for clients in courtrooms across Florida and around the country. Today, Grossman Roth, P.A., is eleven trial lawyers strong, with a team of investigators, paralegals and support staff, who have decades of experience in building cases for trial and presenting them to juries. The firm concentrates its practice in the areas of catastrophic personal injury, products liability, aviation, complex commercial litigation, class actions, professional malpractice and other cases involving significant economic or physical damages. The firm's trial lawyers have been named among the Best Lawyers in America, Florida Super Lawyers, Lawdragon 500 Leading Attorneys in America, and Top Attorneys in Florida. For more information, visit www.grossmanroth.com.

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