Florida Senate - 2019 (NP) SB 36 By Senator Montford 3-00123A-19 201936__ 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 costs and fees and for damages sustained to 835 9 acres of its timber as a result of the negligence, 10 negligence per se, and gross negligence of employees 11 of the Florida Forest Service and their violation of 12 ch. 590, F.S.; providing a limitation on the payment 13 of attorney fees; 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 and which is hereinafter 19 referred to as the “prescribed burn area,” and 20 WHEREAS, under chapter 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 west of the prescribed burn area and 29 separated from the prescribed burn area by Cash Creek, and 30 WHEREAS, on April 9, 2008, the forest service conducted a 31 prescribed burn in the prescribed burn area, but before the fire 32 was completely extinguished, an ember from the smoldering fire 33 drifted onto Shuler’s Pasture, causing a fire there that 34 destroyed 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, 40 that the burn was conducted in violation of chapter 590, Florida 41 Statutes, and that the board was vicariously liable for the 42 forest service’s conduct of the prescribed burn, and 43 WHEREAS, the jury awarded $741,496 in damages and $28,997 44 in costs and fees to Shuler Limited Partnership, for a total sum 45 of $770,493, and 46 WHEREAS, the forest service and the board appealed the jury 47 verdict, but the First District Court of Appeal upheld the 48 verdict, and 49 WHEREAS, the forest service and the board have paid 50 $100,000 to Shuler Limited Partnership pursuant to the statutory 51 limits of liability in s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, applicable 52 at the time, and a total of $670,493 remains to be paid, NOW, 53 THEREFORE, 54 55 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 56 57 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 58 found and declared to be true. 59 Section 2. There is appropriated from the General Revenue 60 Fund to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and 61 to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund 62 the sum of $670,493 for the relief of Shuler Limited Partnership 63 for the damages caused by, and for the costs and fees incurred 64 as the result of, the negligence, negligence per se, and gross 65 negligence of employees of the Florida Forest Service of the 66 Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and their 67 violation of chapter 590, Florida Statutes. 68 Section 3. The Chief Financial Officer is directed to draw 69 a warrant in the sum of $670,493, payable to Shuler Limited 70 Partnership, as compensation for the damages to Shuler Limited 71 Partnership caused by, and for the costs and fees incurred as 72 the result of, the negligence, negligence per se, and gross 73 negligence of employees of the Florida Forest Service of the 74 Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and their 75 violation of chapter 590, Florida Statutes. 76 Section 4. The amount paid by the Florida Forest Service of 77 the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the 78 Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund 79 pursuant to s. 768.28, Florida Statutes, and the amount awarded 80 under this act are intended to provide the sole compensation for 81 all present and future claims arising out of the factual 82 situation described in this act which resulted in damages to 83 Shuler Limited Partnership. The total amount paid for attorney 84 fees relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the 85 total amount awarded under this act. 86 Section 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.