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2009 Florida Statutes
Complaints of violations by citrus fruit dealers; procedure; bond distribution; court action on bond.
601.66 Complaints of violations by citrus fruit dealers; procedure; bond distribution; court action on bond.--
(1) Any person may complain of any violation of any of the provisions of this chapter by any citrus fruit dealer during any shipping season, by filing of a written complaint with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at any time prior to May 1 of the year immediately following the end of such shipping season. Said complaint shall briefly state the facts, and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall thereupon, if the facts alleged prima facie warrant such action, forward true copies of said complaint to the dealer in question and also to the surety company on the dealer's bond. The dealer at such time shall be called upon, within a reasonable time to be prescribed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, either to satisfy the complaint or to answer the complaint in writing, either admitting or denying the liability.
(2) If the dealer admits the violation but fails to satisfy the complaint within the time fixed by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture shall thereupon order payment by the dealer of the damages sustained.
(3) If the dealer, in her or his answer to the original complaint, denies the violation alleged, the Department of Agriculture shall thereupon determine whether the facts and circumstances set forth in the complaint have been established by competent substantial evidence.
(4) If the Department of Agriculture determines that the complaint has not been so established as aforesaid, the order shall, among other things, dismiss the proceeding.
(5) If the Department of Agriculture determines that the allegations of the complaint have been established as aforesaid, it shall make its findings of fact accordingly and thereupon adjudicate the amount of indebtedness or damages due to be paid by the dealer to the complainant. The administrative order shall fix a reasonable time within which said indebtedness shall be paid by the dealer.
(6) Upon failure by a dealer to comply with an order of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services directing payment, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall call upon the surety company to pay over to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, out of the bond theretofore posted by the surety for such dealer, the amount of damages sustained but not exceeding the amount of the bond. The proceeds to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services by the surety company shall, in the discretion of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, be either paid to the original complainant or held by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for later disbursement, depending upon the time during the shipping season when the complaint was made, when liability was admitted by the dealer, when the proceeds were so paid by the surety company to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the amount of other claims then pending against the same dealer, the amount of other claims already adjudicated against the dealer, and such other pertinent facts as the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in its discretion may consider material. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, if it decides to pay the proceeds to the original complainant, has authority to order an increase in the original bond of the dealer to such higher sum as to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would be justified under all the circumstances so as to protect other possible claimants and to exercise all powers otherwise confided to it under this chapter to enforce the posting of such increased bond. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also, in its discretion as the facts and circumstances might appear to it, may hold the amount of such proceeds until such later time, up to the time when all claims have been filed during the allotted period after the closing of the shipping season and such claims adjudicated, and may then disburse the total proceeds in its possession paid over to it by the surety company on the dealer's bond as such claims were adjudicated to the various claimants, paying first to the producers the amount of their claims in full, if such proceeds are sufficient for such purpose, and if not, then in pro rata shares to such producer claimants; and if there then exist additional proceeds in the hands of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, after all claims of producers have been paid in full, the balance of such proceeds shall be paid to claimants who are citrus fruit dealers, either in whole or in pro rata portion, as the aggregate of their claims may bear to the amount of such additional proceeds.
(7) Upon failure of a surety company to comply with a demand for payment of the proceeds of a citrus fruit dealer's bond pursuant to administrative orders entered by the Department of Agriculture fixing amounts due claimants, the department shall within a reasonable time file in the Circuit Court in and for Polk County, an original petition or complaint setting forth the administrative proceedings before the Department of Agriculture and ask for final order of the court directing the surety company to pay the proceeds of the said bond to the Department of Agriculture for distribution to the claimants.
(8) In any court proceeding filed under subsection (7), the findings of facts and orders of the Department of Agriculture shall be prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated, and if in such suit the Department of Agriculture is successful and the court affirms the department's demand for payment from the surety company, the Department of Agriculture shall be allowed all court costs incurred therein and also a reasonable attorney's fee to be fixed and collected as a part of the costs of the suit.
(9) The bond required to be posted by citrus fruit dealers under s. 601.61 shall be subject, and so conditioned therein, only to payment of claims duly adjudicated by the Department of Agriculture. All proceeds from such bonds shall be paid over by the surety company directly to the Department of Agriculture, to be disbursed by it to successful claimants in whose favor the Department of Agriculture has entered administrative order or orders. Such funds shall be considered trust funds in the hands of the Department of Agriculture for the exclusive purpose of satisfying orders of indebtedness duly adjudicated. Cash bonds which may be posted by citrus fruit dealers in lieu of surety company bonds shall occupy the same legal status as funds paid over by the surety company to the Department of Agriculture for payment of claims.
History.--s. 66, ch. 25149, 1949; s. 2, ch. 29737, 1955; s. 1, ch. 65-77; ss. 14, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 7, ch. 71-185; ss. 4, 5, ch. 73-199; s. 1, ch. 77-117; s. 6, ch. 78-95; s. 1, ch. 78-100; s. 2, ch. 81-318; ss. 1, 3, ch. 85-129; s. 4, ch. 91-429; s. 55, ch. 92-291; s. 981, ch. 97-103.