BREAKING NEWS —
Whether you’ve caught wind of this or not, Missouri Attorney Greg Leyh will have a shot in front of a rural Missouri county jury to convince them that Wells Fargo’s (and others’) actions in wrongfully foreclosing against David and Crystal Holm of Clinton County warrant serious money damages.
See the Missouri Supreme Court opinion here: holm-v-wells-fargo-mtg-inc-et-al-sup-ct-mo-no-sc95755-feb-28-2017
Because of Wells Fargo’s evasive actions to thwart discovery, the county judge sanctioned Wells Fargo by striking their pleadings and preventing them from (1) presenting any evidence at trial; (2) objecting to the Holms’ evidence; and (3) cross-examining any of the Holm’s witnesses. Wells Fargo maintained it never waived its right to a jury trial. The circuit judge denied their request, held a bench trial, and entered judgment in favor of the Holms, quieting title to their home.
The Missouri Supreme Court reversed the quiet title action, but refused to vacate the sanctions award, and further held that the wrongful foreclosure “was supported by substantial evidence and was not against the weight of the evidence.” What the new trial by jury will determine is what the Holm’s damages are for the wrongful foreclosure. A recent trial in Clinton County resulted in a $4.7-million jury award. The Holms were originally awarded $2.92-million in punitive damages as part of their overall award.
The issue here is how a jury is going to treat Wells Fargo, given the recent spate of bad press surrounding the creation of dummy accounts to get the bank’s numbers up. With the way that most rural folks view banks these days, it’s likely that Wells’s request for a jury trial may get them in more financial hot water than they bargained for, rather than just paying up and taking their loss with grace, lesson learned. I personally don’t think it’s going to end that way for the bank and I’m sure the quiet title action that was vacated is going to be revisited.