Florida Ag Department on Losing End of $1.2M Lawsuit
What’s the destruction of 160,000 citrus plants worth? $1.2 million according to a decision in Orlando last week. The jury found that Gary Mahon and Mahon’s company, Pokey’s Lake Gem Citrus Nursery in Zellwood, Florida had not been properly compensated after the state Department of Agriculture destroyed a number of their trees in the 2000s in an attempt to stop the spread of disease.
In 2008, Florida lawmakers passed legislation requiring citrus plant growers to sell or destroy plants not grown in greenhouses to protect the state’s citrus industry from citrus greening.
According to the Associated Press, the Department of Agriculture had argued Mahon did not deserve compensation since he could have avoided his losses by moving his citrus plants into greenhouses. Mahon’s attorneys disputed that interpretation of the law.
They report that earlier this year, about 18,000 homeowners in Orange County, home to Orlando, won a judgement of $42 million against the state for destroying their citrus trees. Tens of thousands of homeowners in Broward, Lee and Palm Beach counties also have won class action lawsuits against the state over their destroyed trees, and compensations varied by county. A case in Miami-Dade County is still pending.
In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that it would appeal this case.