A state appeals court Friday cleared the way for a couple to pursue a lawsuit against Orange County and local officials in a dispute about operating a toucan farm out of a home.
A panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal said an Orange County circuit judge incorrectly dismissed the lawsuit because of a statute of limitations. David W. Foley Jr. and Jennifer T. Foley were commercial toucan farmers who tried to run the business out of their Orange County home, according to the ruling.
But after a neighbor complained, Orange County officials ruled that the bird-farming operation violated the county code. The couple filed a federal lawsuit against the county and members of the county zoning board and county commission.
The federal lawsuit ultimately went to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a ruling led to the case’s dismissal. The Foleys then filed a lawsuit in state court, but a circuit judge said the case was not filed in time to comply with a statute of limitations.
The appeals court Friday, however, said the couple acted promptly enough after the federal lawsuit was dismissed.
“Because the Foleys brought their state court claims within 30 days of the dismissal of their federal case, the trial court erred in finding that the statute of limitations barred their action,” said a nine-page majority opinion, written by appeals-court Judge Richard Orfinger and joined by Judge Vincent G. Torpy Jr.
While Judge Wendy Berger agreed with the majority on the statute-of-limitations issue, she dissented because she said county officials were entitled to immunity from the lawsuit.