California Court of Appeals Orders Wells Fargo to Pay Over $500,000 for False Credit Reporting and Violation of The Fair Credit Reporting Act

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On September 2,2009, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District in Riverside issued its final decision on the appeal of a verdict from the Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, California which had ordered Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to pay over $1 million dollars in damages, fees and costs to Reed and Mary Ann Fisher of Oceanside. The Fisher's allegations against Wells Fargo arose out of a two-year uncorrected pattern of false and inaccurate credit reporting which damaged the Fisher's credit scores and which also resulted in credit denials. The Court of Appeal reduced the punitive damages award to $150,000.00, but left the balance of the judgment intact. The net result is a judgment against Wells Fargo Home Mortgage of over $500,000.00. The Fishers were represented by Robert F. Brennan of Brennan, Wiener & Associates in La Crescenta, widely regarded as the leading consumer protection and credit damage law firm in Southern California. Reed & Mary Ann Fisher v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Appellate Case No. E043771,Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two.

Following a two-year appeal of a verdict of over $1 million dollars against Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two, has affirmed the judgment against Wells Fargo but reduced the punitive damages award to comport with due process standards. The total judgment, with fees, costs and interest, still exceeds $500,000.00. Reed and Mary Anne Fisher v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Appellate Case No. E043771, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two.

The appeal followed a seven-day jury trial, a civil jury in Rancho Cucamonga ordered Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to pay consumers Reed and Mary Ann Fisher $765,000.00 in actual and punitive damages in a lawsuit arising out of alleged false credit reporting by Wells Fargo over a two-year period. On August 30, 2007, Judge Martin Hildreth assessed attorney's fees and costs against Wells Fargo in the sum of $283,594.45, which brought the total judgment to $1,045,594.45. Reed & Mary Ann Fisher v. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Case No. RCV 074 822, San Bernardino Superior Court, Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse.

Plaintiffs' counsel Robert F. Brennan indicated that the appeal was from one of the largest verdicts of its kind in California history. While the reduction of the judgment left Mr. Brennan and the Fishers somewhat disappointed, victory is still theirs to claim.

Brennan commented, "The credit reporting industry needs to get the message that false credit reporting can ruin a consumer's life and that extra precautions need to be taken to prevent false credit reporting, and to promptly fix it when it does occur.

"While my clients and I firmly believed that the full amount of the punitive damages was warranted, we respect the Court of Appeal decision reducing the punitive damages. These days, contrary to what you hear on Fox News, the law has changed and punitive damages are much harder to get, and if you do get them, Courts of Appeal reduce them fairly commonly. That a jury assessed $750,000.00 in punitive damages against Wells Fargo demonstrates the outrage the jurors undoubtedly felt at Wells Fargo's utter disregard for the Fisher's rights to accurate credit reporting. In reducing the punitive damages, the Court of Appeal was following the law, and there was nothing in the opinion indicating that the justices disagreed with or discounted the sense of outrage felt by the Rancho Cucamonga jury."

The Fishers' lawsuit alleged that Wells Fargo had two years of false credit reporting which effectively ruined the plaintiffs' lives. In the spring of 2001, San Clemente residents Reed and MaryAnne Fisher had their home red-tagged because of land instability. They thought the biggest nightmare would be dealing with their red-tagged home, but this proved to be the lesser of their nightmares over the next two years.

The Fishers showed at trial that they contacted Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, their mortgage servicer, and obtained a forbearance agreement so they did not have to make mortgage payments while their home was red-tagged. Ultimately, Wells Fargo transferred the mortgage to Freddie Mac, the mortgage holder, and Freddie Mac charged off the loan with a zero balance and no negative credit marks. The Fishers had always been current on their home mortgage payments, and had otherwise spotless credit.

Trial testimony showed that Wells Fargo, however, continued to report false negative credit information to the credit bureaus that the Fishers were between 30 and 90 days late on their mortgage payments. Wells Fargo also began foreclosure proceedings on the Fisher's home when it no longer even had the right to do so, because it had transferred the loan to Freddie Mac.

The Fishers testified that the negative credit entries from Wells Fargo made it extremely tough for the Fishers to get another living situation and to pick up the pieces of their lives, having been denied their good names and credit by Wells Fargo's false credit reporting. This went on for two years. Wells Fargo would, on the one hand, send a letter to the Fishers stating that the credit information was being cleaned up, then on the other hand continue to report the negative credit information to the credit bureaus. Wells' negative credit information damaged the Fisher's credit scores.

The Fishers retained prominent Southern California consumer protection and credit damage attorney Robert F. Brennan of La Crescenta, to file a lawsuit to finally get Wells Fargo to stop the credit reporting. But with two years of negative credit reporting ruining their lives, the Fishers proceeded to trial to obtain their damages as well as a permanent court judgment showing that Wells Fargo had acted improperly.

On Tuesday, March 6, 2007 at 11:30 a.m., a Rancho Cucamonga jury gave them a judgment against Wells Fargo for $765,000 in actual and punitive damages. The court then added the sum of $283.594.45 in fees and costs in August. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows consumers to recover their attorney's fees and costs in the event of a favorable verdict.

"This is yet another example of how the big players in the credit reporting industry really ignore and neglect the consumers they're supposed to protect," says Brennan. "The Fishers tried for two years to clean up their credit by themselves, only to have the door slammed in their faces repeatedly. Only when they hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit did things start to improve. But by then a lot of damage had been done."

Contact Information: Robert F. Brennan, Brennan, Wiener & Associates, 3150 Montrose Ave., La Crescenta, Ca. 91214, (818) 249-5291. Mr. Brennan and his firm are the leading consumer protection and credit damage attorneys in Southern California. Mr. Brennan has been selected as a "Southern California Super Lawyer" for four consecutive years.


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