High Court Refuses to Review Ruling Upholding Dismissal of RESPA Suit

WASHINGTON, D.C. - (Mealey's) The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 1 denied a couple's petition for a writ of certiorari seeking review of a Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that affirmed the dismissal of their suit accusing a loan servicer of violating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) (Jenara Steele, et al. v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, et al., No. 11-1288, U.S. Sup.; See July 2012, Page 4).

Plaintiffs Jenara and Shannon Steele said in their April 24 petition that the appeals court erred in upholding a ruling that Green Tree Servicing LLC did not receive a copy of the plaintiffs' qualified written request (QWR) for information about their loan because it was sent to the wrong address.  The plaintiffs asserted that the loan servicer's failure to respond to the QWR violated RESPA.

The Steeles obtained a loan from CTX Mortgage Co. in 1996 to purchase their home.  CTX assigned the plaintiffs' note and deed of trust to GE Mortgage Services LLC, which then assigned the deed of trust to defendant REO Properties Corp.  REO first used Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC to service the loan, but Green Tree was assigned as the loan servicer in April 2008.

2 Different Addresses

The Steeles contend that they received a letter from Green Tree explaining that it was the new loan servicer but that the letter gave two addresses for correspondence:  a payment address that was specifically set out and an address for QWRs that was buried in a paragraph of text.  In October 2008, Green Tree and REO claimed that the plaintiffs were $200,000 in arrears on their loan, and counsel for the plaintiffs sent a QWR to the address provided by Green Tree's collection group.  Green Tree did not respond to the QWR.

On Jan. 16, 2009, counsel for Green Tree sent the couple a notice of intent to accelerate, and the Steeles responded by sending a second QWR on Jan. 22.  Green Tree stated in a facsimile dated March 16 that it could not respond to the QWR because it was not sent to the proper address and was not accompanied by authorization from the plaintiffs.  The Steeles originally sued Green Tree and REO in April 2009.  On Sept. 7, 2010, U.S. Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater of the Northern District of Texas awarded summary judgment to the defendants on the couple's RESPA claim after finding that Green Tree never received a QWR from the plaintiffs because it was sent to the wrong address.  The plaintiffs' subsequent motion to alter or amend judgment was denied, so they appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

On Dec. 12, 2011, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision "for essentially the same reasons stated by the district court."  The Steeles' request for a panel hearing was denied.

The plaintiffs are represented by David M. Vereeke of Gagnon Peacock Shanklin & Vereeke in Dallas.  Richard A. McKinney of Higier Allen & Lautin in Addison, Texas, is counsel for Green Tree.

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