Welcome to the Lee County Citrus Canker Compensation Litigation Website
This page is dedicated to providing information concerning the class action lawsuit brought on behalf of Lee County Homeowners (Lee Homeowners) against the Florida Department of Agriculture (Department), resulting from the Department’s taking and destruction, under the citrus canker eradication program (CCEP), of residential citrus trees owned by the Lee Homeowners that were not determined to be infected with citrus canker.
In 2003, the Lee Homeowners sued the Department under Article X, § 6(a), Fla. Const., to recover full compensation for approximately 34,000 healthy, uninfected, residential citrus trees taken and destroyed by the Department under the CCEP. The Department fought the lawsuit for more than a decade, culminating in separate trials that determined liability and the amount of full compensation due for the private property taken and destroyed.
In 2005, the Lee circuit court certified the case to proceed as a class action on behalf of the following class:
All owners of citrus trees within Lee County, incorporated or otherwise, not used for commercial purposes, which were not determined by the Department to be infected with citrus canker and which were destroyed under the CCEP from January 1, 2000 to 2006.
In 2012, notice of the class action lawsuit was mailed to all known members of the certified class of Lee Homeowners based on name and address data provided by the Department. The Lee Homeowners were advised of their right to remain part of the certified class, and if they chose to do so, be bound by the outcome of the litigation, or to exclude themselves from the litigation and not be bound by the outcome including any eventual settlement or recovery. Approximately 125 Lee Homeowners timely excluded themselves from the class action litigation.
In 2013, following a non-jury trial, the Lee circuit court held the Department liable in inverse condemnation for the taking and destruction of the Lee Homeowners’ 33,957 healthy, uninfected residential citrus trees under the CCEP. The court directed that a jury be empaneled to determine the amount of full compensation due to the Lee Homeowners for their private property destroyed by the Department.
In 2014, following a two-week trial, a Lee County jury returned a verdict that awarded $285.25 per-tree as full compensation for all 33,957 trees owned by the Lee Homeowners, for a total of $9,686,234.25. The jury also determined that the Department was entitled to deductions from the total compensation awarded for amounts actually used by Lee Homeowners who received Shade Florida "Wal-Mart" cards and $55 per-tree payments. These deductions reduced the total compensation awarded by $1,725,087.00. After deducting this amount, the Lee circuit court awarded prejudgment interest of $5,664,101.84 on top of the net award.
On August 18, 2014, the Lee circuit court entered final judgment in favor of the Lee Homeowners and against the Department in the amount of $13,625,249.09 (the “2014 Compensation Judgment”). The Department appealed the 2014 Compensation Judgment.
In 2016, the Second District Court of Appeal upheld the 2014 Compensation Judgment. Dep’t of Agriculture v. Dolliver, 209 So. 3d 578 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016).
The Lee Homeowners and Class Counsel petitioned the 2017 Legislature for an appropriation to pay the 2014 Compensation Judgment, as well as additional amounts awarded as attorneys’ fees and costs. The 2017 Legislature appropriated $16,475,800.00 to pay the 2014 Compensation Judgment, and other amounts due for fees and costs. However, then-Governor Scott vetoed the $16,475,800.00 appropriation.
Following the Governor’s 2017 veto, the Lee Homeowners and Class Counsel filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus in Lee circuit court.
In 2018, the Lee circuit court entered an Order Declaring Sections 11.066(3) and (4), FL Stat. Unconstitutional, As Applied and Granting Writ of Mandamus. The Lee circuit court also entered a Writ of Mandamus that ordered and directed the Department to pay the full amounts owed, together with accrued interest, or be subject to further proceedings including potential contempt of court.
The Department appealed the 2018 Order and Writ of Mandamus. In 2019, the Second District affirmed the 2018 Order and Writ of Mandamus. Fla. Dep’t of Agric. & Consumer Servs. v. Dolliver, 283 So. 3d 953 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019).
The Department appealed to the Supreme Court of Florida. In March 2020, while the appeal was pending before the Supreme Court, the 2020 Legislature appropriated $19,173,978.00 to pay and satisfy the 2014 Judgment, and other amounts due for attorneys’ fees and costs. The Legislature’s appropriation of $19,173,978.00 became final as of July 1, 2020.
On October 19, 2020, the Lee circuit court entered an Order on Class Counsel’s Request for Determination of Appropriate Method for Calculating Payments to Eligible Lee County Homeowners” (Payment Calculation Order). The court concluded that the appropriate method for calculating payments to eligible Lee Homeowners should be based on $285.25 per-tree, in accord with the jury verdict rendered during the 2014 compensation trial, for each of the total number of eligible uninfected trees, with the resulting per-tree amount multiplied by the number of trees owned by each of the eligible Lee Homeowners, with individual set-offs deducted from these amounts. The Payment Calculation Order directed Lead Counsel and his team of professionals to complete the data analysis and calculate the payment amounts for all eligible uninfected trees and determine the amounts of payments to be distributed to all eligible Lee Homeowners, after deducting set-off amounts based on each homeowner’s individual usage of Shade Florida (Walmart) debit cards and/or negotiation of $55 per-tree statutory payments.
On November 23, 2020, the Lee circuit court entered an order approving Lead Counsel’s Plan of Distribution and authorizing Lead Counsel to proceed with distribution of proceeds to eligible Lee Homeowners in accord with the Plan of Distribution.
In early January, 2021, payments were mailed to eligible Lee Homeowners.
Certain court documents about this case can be viewed by accessing the links on the Important Documents page.