FT. MYERS, Fla., Jan. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly two decades after thousands of Lee County homeowners watched helplessly as the Florida Department of Agriculture destroyed their healthy, uninfected residential citrus trees under the failed citrus canker eradication program, checks should be arriving in their mailboxes this week representing Court-ordered compensation payments. "I'm elated. It's been a long and difficult journey and justice has finally been served," said Robert Gilbert, the lead counsel who represented the Lee County homeowners in this class action lawsuit for the past 17 years.
Roughly half of the 12,000 Lee County homeowners will receive checks ranging from $458.00 to $1,000, while the other half will receive checks greater than $1,000. 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. Recipients will be required to provide legal identification in order to deposit or cash the checks.
The Lee County class action lawsuit was filed in 2003. In 2014, following two trials, the Lee circuit court entered a judgment that awarded the homeowners full compensation for the destruction of their private property. But it took until 2020 – and a court order directing the Department and its Commissioner to immediately pay the full amounts due or face contempt of court – for the Department to finally pay the $19.1 million due, including accrued interest.
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, multiplied by the number of trees owned by each eligible Lee homeowner, after deducting amounts based on each homeowner's use of $100 Shade Florida (Walmart) debit cards and/or $55 per-tree statutory payments. On November 23rd, Judge Kyle authorized distribution of the proceeds to eligible Lee homeowners.
Each check will include a personal identification number that homeowners can use on a website — www.leecountycitruscankerlitigationfund.com — to see how their compensation payment was determined. Gilbert said the Department kept records on 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. "The Department's records are presumed correct," Gilbert said.
Homeowners' lead counsel Robert Gilbert commented: "We're delighted to finally distribute payments to thousands of Lee County homeowners whose private property was taken long ago. While the legal journey was long and difficult, justice ultimately prevailed. We appreciate Judge Kyle's steadfast involvement to ensure that the constitutional provisions protecting private property were upheld."
Source – Contact
Robert C. Gilbert, Esq.
SOURCE Robert C. Gilbert, P.A.