Foreclosure disrupts lives and families. Credit is ruined, families often split and years of hard work is lost with just one rap of a gavel. Beyond the dollars and cents, there is another cost of foreclosure, the loss of one’s physical and emotional health. Some folks rebound quickly while others can never get back up on their feet. Worse, some people take their own life.
Obviously Wall Street and banks share much of the blame. Corrupt mortgage brokers, regulators and appraisers share responsibility too.
Almost every foreclosure story is one of a dream lost. The stories of those who lost their home are tragic. Today, virtually everyone knows a friend, neighbor or family member who lost their home to foreclosure. For this post, we begin with a recent foreclosure in Austin, Texas.
Austin is a vibrant city. The economy is better in Austin than in many other cities but foreclosures aren’t limited to any particular zip codes. Earlier this month, the National Mortgage News carried the story of Craig Hutchinson and the loss of his home in the Austin suburb of Round Rock. Hutchinson was killed with his own gun just one day before he was scheduled to lose his home in a foreclosure.
Police and the local coroner haven’t disclosed all the details but we know that Craig Hutchinson was a sergeant in the Travis County Sheriff’s Department. His fellow officers found him dead after responding to a 911 call to his home. Hutchinson was killed with his own weapon and police have now determined that he took his own life. The shooting occurred hours before he was scheduled to lose his home to a foreclosure by SunTrust Mortgage.
Sadly, we are away of many suicides related to foreclosures. Most of them don’t get the publicity that Hutchinson’s story received. Over 2 years ago, the Huffington Post said that foreclosures and the recent recession have been linked to over 10,000 suicides.
One California man, Norman Rousseau, shot himself, apparently worried about being forced out of his home and on the street. Unlike Sgt. Hutchinson, Rousseau was actively fighting back against the bank. He had already hired a lawyer and had filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo. Like many homeowners trying to fight big banks, Rousseau found out that fighting big banks isn’t easy.
Intrigued by the news story, I obtained his lawsuit from the Superior Court of Ventura County, California. His tale reads like so many others, unfortunately he paid the ultimate price for his bad mortgage.
Bad mortgage? Rousseau’s lawsuit claims that he sought a conventional 30 year fixed mortgage. With a fixed mortgage, you know what you must pay each month. No matter what happens to interest rates, your rate and monthly payment is fixed.
Instead of getting a fixed rate loan, however, Rousseau and his wife claim they were pressured by a banker to an adjustable rate product (“ARM” or Adjustable Rate Mortgage). The banker assured them they would “save” $600 per month and that ARMs were “the new industry standard.” They were also told that in two years, they could refinance into a permanent loan and that rates would likely be lower.
The date was October 2007. The height of the market.
The Rousseau’s say that much of what they were told were lies. The payment they were promised was just an introductory rate payment. When their payments escalated, the Rousseau’s were unable to keep up. They may not have defaulted, however. There is evidence that one of their payments was not properly credited by the bank. That alleged missed or misplaced payment may have been all that was necessary to cause things to spiral.
Anyone who has ever missed a payment with a bank knows what usually happens next… default notices, fees, added interest, legal fees and penalties. It becomes impossible to dig out.
Like so many other people, the Rousseau’s were forced into foreclosure. Unlike many others, however, the Rousseau’s fought back and sued their lender which by this time through mergers and acquisitions was now Wachovia (Wells Fargo).
Rousseau never was able to finish his case. Despondent, he committed suicide.
Any suicide is a tragedy. Obviously we don’t believe that Wells Fargo or SunTrust wanted to see anyone lose their life over a mortgage. But even the threat of losing one’s home is devastating for most people. Banks have an obligation to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” It’s one thing to repossess a jet ski or boat for nonpayment, that can easily be reversed and fixed. But take a family’s home?
That damage can’t be undone and what if the bank was wrong? What if there was a wrongful foreclosure?
Wrongful Foreclosures and MahanyLaw / Judge, Lang & Katers
Our two law firms do not handle residential foreclosures. There are simply too many. In almost every foreclosure we see, however, there are significant flaws in the bank’s paperwork. Missing allonges, forged signatures, robosigning, altered documents… what we see is sickening. If a bank can’t properly process the paperwork for a simple loan why should we trust them with our money?
While we don’t handle residential foreclosures, we may be able to help in wrongful foreclosure cases. We don’t define a wrongful foreclosure as one in which there may be sloppy, bad, tainted or missing paperwork. Rather, the residential cases we will consider are limited to cases in which the homeowner never missed a payment yet still got caught up in the foreclosure nightmare.
Every day we are asked, “Can I sue my bank?” The answer is yes, of course, but suing a bank is a bit like a chihuahua facing off against an aggressive pit bull. Banks have power, expensive lawyers and lots of money.
If you are interested wondering how to sue your bank or feel that you have suffered damages because of a wrongful foreclosure, give us a call.
MahanyLaw and Judge, Lang & Katers are two national boutique law firms that join together to sue banks. Large or small, we are not afraid of banks and have the experience and passion to take them on. Attorney Brian Mahany was part of the team that forced Bank of America to pay $10 billion in cash and another almost $7 billion to other government agencies and in home owner relief payments.
Our practice is limited to large cases in excess of $5 million in actual loss. Knowing that you can’t put a price tag on human life and the loss of one’s dreams, we or our law firm partners occasionally consider smaller wrongful foreclosure cases where all payments were timely made and losses substantial.
We started this story with Sgt. Chris Hutchinson and will end with him. Had he not died, Craig Hutchinson would have retired next week. He served the sheriff’s department for 32 years.
For more information, contact attorney Chris Katers at [hidden email] or by telephone at (414) 777-0778. The author of this post, Brian Mahany, can also be reached at [hidden email].
MahanyLaw and Judge, Lang & Katers – America’s Lender Liability Lawyers. We Sue Banks