Florida Senate - 2016 (NP) SB 40 By Senator Montford 3-00164A-16 201640__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Shuler Limited Partnership by 3 the Florida Forest Service of the Department of 4 Agriculture and Consumer Services, formerly known as 5 the Division of Forestry, and the Board of Trustees of 6 the Internal Improvement Trust Fund; providing for an 7 appropriation to compensate Shuler Limited Partnership 8 for damages sustained to 835 acres of its timber as a 9 result of the negligence, negligence per se, and gross 10 negligence of employees of the Florida Forest Service, 11 their violation of s. 590.13, Florida Statutes; 12 providing a limitation on the payment of fees and 13 costs; providing an effective date. 14 15 WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement 16 Trust Fund, hereinafter referred to as the “board,” is the owner 17 of an approximately 3,267-acre property located within Tate’s 18 Hell State Forest in Franklin County, which property is 19 hereinafter referred to as the “prescribed burn area,” and 20 WHEREAS, pursuant to ch. 590, Florida Statutes, the Florida 21 Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer 22 Services, formerly known as the Division of Forestry and 23 hereinafter referred to as the “forest service,” is responsible 24 for managing Tate’s Hell State Forest, including the prescribed 25 burn area, for the board, and 26 WHEREAS, Shuler Limited Partnership is the owner of an 27 approximately 2,182-acre property, hereinafter referred to as 28 Shuler’s Pasture, located just west of the prescribed burn area, 29 which is separated from the prescribed burn area by Cash Creek, 30 and 31 WHEREAS, on April 9, 2008, the forest service conducted a 32 prescribed burn in the prescribed burn area, but before the fire 33 was completely extinguished, an ember from the smoldering fire 34 drifted onto Shuler’s Pasture destroying 835 acres of trees, and 35 WHEREAS, Shuler Limited Partnership filed suit in the 36 Second Judicial Circuit in and for Franklin County and a jury 37 returned a verdict in favor of Shuler Limited Partnership, 38 finding that the forest service was negligent, negligent per se, 39 and grossly negligent in the conduct of the prescribed burn, the 40 burn was conducted in violation of s. 590.13, Florida Statutes, 41 and the board was vicariously liable for the forest service’s 42 conduct of the prescribed burn, and 43 WHEREAS, the forest service and the board appealed the jury 44 verdict and award of damages in the amount of $741,496, which 45 was upheld by the First District Court of Appeal, and 46 WHEREAS, the forest service and the board have paid 47 $100,000 to Shuler Limited Partnership pursuant to the 48 applicable statutory limits of liability in s. 768.28, Florida 49 Statutes, and a total of $670,493, consisting of $641,496 in 50 damages and $28,997 in costs, remains to be paid, NOW, 51 THEREFORE, 52 53 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 54 55 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 56 found and declared to be true. 57 Section 2. There is appropriated from the General Revenue 58 Fund to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and 59 from the General Revenue Fund to the Board of Trustees of the 60 Internal Improvement Trust Fund the sum of $670,493 for the 61 relief of Shuler Limited Partnership for damages caused by the 62 negligence, negligence per se, and gross negligence of employees 63 of the Florida Forest Service and their violation of s. 590.13, 64 Florida Statutes. 65 Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw 66 a warrant in the sum of $670,493, payable to Shuler Limited 67 Partnership, as compensation for the damages to Shuler Limited 68 Partnership caused by the negligence, negligence per se, and 69 gross negligence of employees of the Florida Forest Service and 70 their violation of s. 590.13, Florida Statutes. 71 Section 4. The amount paid by the Florida Forest Service of 72 the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the 73 Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund 74 pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount awarded 75 under this act are intended to provide the sole compensation for 76 all present and future claims arising out of the factual 77 situation described in this act which resulted in damages to 78 Shuler Limited Partnership. The total amount paid for attorney’s 79 fees, lobbying fees, costs, and similar expenses relating to 80 this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the total amount awarded 81 under this act. 82 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.