Mendez v. Florida Department of Agriculture (West Palm Beach, Florida).
Palm Beach County homeowners whose citrus trees were destroyed in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker were awarded $210 per tree, times 66,493 trees, for a total award of $13,963,530. The award was to be offset by the amount of compensation already issuedd in the form of $55 credits and reforestation repayments.
In his closing argument on behalf of the Palm Beach residents, Robert C. “Bobby” Gilbert, of the Alters Law Firm, reminded the jury of the destruction of the some of the plaintiffs’ healthy backyard citrus trees as part of the citrus canker eradication program. Some of the trees were more than 15 feet tall, and allegedly would have cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace.
Mr. Gilbert requested total compensation of $29,135,713, and an average tree value of $438.
For the defendant Florida Department of Agriculture, Wesley “Wes” Parsons, of the law firm Yoss, told the jury that the trial was about citrus fruit, not about citrus height, and so tree valuation based on a timber use measure was not appopriate. Instead, said Mr. Parsons, the amount and quality of the fruit should be the consideration. And the proper way to get high quality citrus trees is to buy small trees in commonly available pot-sizes, and help them grow.
Mr. Parsons suggested a sensible compensation would be about $3M, which was approximately the amount of compensation that had already been paid.