Galveston jury says Ocwen Federal Bank forced woman into bankruptcy
GALVESTON, TX – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – A Galveston County jury has awarded a Texas City woman $11.5 million after finding that West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Ocwen Federal Bank engaged in a scheme of unfair, unlawful and deceptive business practices in its servicing of her home equity loan.
The jury verdict, handed down in Judge Susan Criss’ 212th District Court on Nov. 29, followed eight days of trial and two days of deliberation in Sealy Davis v. Ocwen Federal Bank, et al.
In February 2002, Ms. Davis, 64, took out a $31,000 home equity loan on the Texas City residence where she had lived since 1942. Ocwen acted as the servicing agent on the loan.
In 2003, Ms. Davis became ill and spent four days in the hospital, which forced her to miss one loan payment. Ocwen told her it would put her on a payment plan, but never did. Ocwen also failed to credit Ms. Davis for the money she paid, and began to foreclose on her house while continuing to assure her she was on a payment plan.
Ocwen eventually foreclosed on Ms. Davis’ home, and she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the hopes of ending Ocwen’s harassment. During the bankruptcy, however, Ocwen requested an additional $390 to cover its costs and fees related to the default she already cured.
“We’re pleased the jury decided that Ocwen should be held liable for what it did to Ms. Davis,” said attorney Robert Hilliard, lead counsel for Ms. Davis and name partner in Corpus Christi’s Hilliard & Muñoz, L.L.P. “Home loan companies should help people own a place to live, but Ocwen apparently is more interested in taking away the homes of its customers.”
At trial, a former Ocwen employee testified to the company’s unfair practices, including paying incentives to its loan collectors for moving properties with equity into foreclosure. Evidence also showed that the company engaged in predatory servicing by not informing borrowers of how to make their loans current and failing to give credit for payments when they were made.
In a 10-2 vote, the jury found that Ocwen knowingly and intentionally deceived Ms. Davis, and awarded her $10 million in punitive damages and $1.15 million in attorneys fees.
Mr. Hilliard currently represents more than 100 additional homeowners in lawsuits against Ocwen, and previously received a $3 million verdict in a similar case in Corpus Christi. Also representing Ms. Davis were William H. Oliver of San Antonio’s Pipkin, Oliver & Bradley, L.L.P., and Edward M. Carstarphen of Houston’s Ellis, Carstarphen, Dougherty & Goldenthal, P.C.