Fla. Tree Owners Win Citrus Comp Class Action, But Get Only $11.5M
Plaintiffs’ counsel had hoped for $50 million or so. But a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., jury effectively awarded less than $5 million to 58,000 Broward County homeowners who had sought additional state compensation for more than 130,000 trees destroyed during a failed campaign to eradicate citrus canker.
The total verdict was $11.5 million, reports the Associated Press. However, that amounts to only about $4.4 million more than homeowners had already received from the state—and far less than the plaintiffs hoped to get, according to the Miami Herald.
A turning point in the trial apparently may have been a state expert’s testimony that the trees would have died of this disease or another one eventually, the Herald writes. Attorney Robert Gilbert, who represents the plaintiff homeowners in the class action, had fought to keep this evidence—which he says is inaccurate—out of the trial.
”The judge allowed them to hear flawed science, and that was the determining factor in the jury’s decision,” Gilbert says. “I wouldn’t use the word insult, but the award was far less than full compensation, and we’re not satisfied.”
As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, owners have already received a $100 Wal-Mart gift card for the first tree destroyed by the state and $55 for each additional tree. The award by the jury this week adds another $34 per tree.
Under the Florida constitution, homeowners are entitled to “full compensation” for property taken by the state.