TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today annou…

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office has filed a lawsuit against a Central Florida tree removal company, claiming the company price gouged Floridians in the wake of the deadly tornados earlier this month. Sun State Trees & Property Maintenance, Inc. allegedly charged two Deland neighbors more than double the price for removing a tree that had fallen on their roofs during the storms.

“It is unconscionable that companies try to take advantage of those whose lives were devastated by the deadly storms that swept across the state earlier this month,” said Attorney General McCollum. “I am committed to protecting all Florida citizens from individuals who exploit others’
misfortunes.”

Shortly following the tornados, one of the victims contacted the Attorney General’s Office, claiming the tree removal company had billed her and her 83-year-old neighbor for the same job. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office revealed that Sun State charged the neighbors a combined total of nearly $13,000 for removing a tree which had landed on both roofs. The company billed each neighbor separately for the one job then submitted two separate claims to the insurance company. Each claim detailed the total cost of labor, time and equipment which equaled approximately $6,000.

The civil complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office alleges one count of price gouging, which carries a maximum civil penalty of $1,000 per violation, and one count of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, which carries a maximum civil penalty of $10,000 per violation and $15,000 for each violation victimizing a senior citizen. The Attorney General’s Office is also seeking restitution, damages and attorney’s fees.

In addition to the lawsuit filed today, the Attorney General’s Office is actively pursuing a previous price gouging lawsuit against Sun State for similar business practices during the 2004 hurricane season. The earlier complaint was filed in September 2004 and litigation is ongoing.

A copy of the lawsuit filed today against Sun State is available at:
http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/MRAY-6YLJJT/$file/SunStateComplaint.pdf

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