The First District Court of Appeal affirmed a Franklin County jury verdict awarding Shuler Limited Partnership (Shuler) $741,496 in damages in a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Forestry and the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. Hopping Green & Sams (HGS) attorneys Kent Safriet and Mike Collazo represented Shuler in the seven-day jury trial.
The court upheld the jury’s finding that the Division of Forestry and Board of Trustees were grossly negligent in conducting an April 2008 prescribed burn in Tate’s Hell State Forest. The prescribed burn smoldered for approximately six weeks after ignition and caused three wildfires, including one that destroyed approximately 835 acres of Shuler’s property and timber.
“While it is disappointing that the State did not take responsibility for its actions and forced citizens of this state to incur the expenses and stress of a four-year legal battle to obtain justice, the Shulers are elated to finally be able to put this whole ordeal behind them,” said Kent Safriet. “The Shulers are eager to resume business as usual at the family farm.”