Michigan Appeals Panel Affirms $483,195 Award For Buyers Of Contaminated Condo

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A unanimous District III Michigan Court of Appeals panel affirmed an award of $483,195 for a couple who discovered that a condominium they purchased was contaminated with trichloroethylene and that the seller and real estate agent committed fraud by not disclosing the contamination before the sale (Gary L. Bowman, et uxor v. Merly Greene, et al., No. 308282, Mich. App., Dist. III; 2013 Mich. App. LEXIS 1781).

Judge: Stay, Bifurcation Not Merited In Professional Liability Coverage Dispute

WHEELING, W.Va. - Despite the existence of a parallel proceeding in state court, a West Virginia federal judge on Oct. 25 declined to abstain or remand a real estate firm's declaratory and contractual claims against its insurer, finding no indication of "exceptional circumstances" to warrant such an action (Paull Associates Realty LLC v. Lexington Insurance Co., No. 5:13-cv-00080, N.D. W.Va.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153534).

Magistrate Judge Denies Sanctions Request For Bank's Untimely Litigation Hold

NEW YORK - A federal magistrate judge in New York on Oct. 24 refused to sanction a trustee bank over its failure to implement a litigation hold in a timely fashion, ruling that while the failure to do so was negligent, the bank presented sufficient evidence showing that no relevant information was destroyed or lost (Mastr Adjustable Rate Mortgage Trust 2006-0A2, et al. v. UBS Real Estate Securities Inc., No. 12 Civ. 7322, S.D. N.Y.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152441).

Judge Dismisses Couple's Federal Claims Over Force-Placed Flood Insurance

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - A federal judge in Alabama on Oct. 17 dismissed a couple's claims that a bank and a loan servicer violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when obtaining force-placed flood insurance for their property after finding that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Reginald Rex Davis Jr., et al. v. Bank of America, N.A., et al., No. 13-cv-231-WC, M.D. Ala.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149228).

Real Estate Fraud Case Remanded; 1st Circuit Finds Damages Expert Unreliable

BOSTON - A trial court erred in allowing a damages expert to provide unreliable calculations of hedonic and other damages suffered by a schizophrenic trash truck driver who was induced into a fraudulent scheme by a group of lenders, brokers and closing agents to be a straw buyer for two homes that later went into foreclosure, a First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Oct. 15 (Robert Smith, et al. v. Dorchester Real Estate, et al., Nos. 11-2349; 11-2378; 11-2389, 1st Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 20785).

Borrowers' Loan Suit Amounts To 'Speculation,' Federal Judge Rules

ST. LOUIS - A federal judge in Missouri on Oct. 1 dismissed a suit disputing JP Morgan Chase Bank NA's (Chase) ownership of a Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu) loan following WaMu's closure, finding that the borrowers "fail to provide even minimal factual support for their assertion that their loan was one of many acquired by a REMIC $(Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit$) prior to the receivership; thus, it could not have been acquired by the defendants" (Bernard Feldman LP, et al. v. JP Morgan Chase Bank NA, et al., No. 13-1229, E.D. Mo.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141457).

Judge Dismisses Proposed Class's Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Claim

BALTIMORE - A proposed class's claim under Pennsylvania's Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (UTPCPL) against a real estate settlement services company was dismissed by a federal judge in Maryland on Sept. 25 after holding that Maryland law applies to the claim because it is the location where the plaintiffs' alleged economic injury occurred when closing on a loan refinancing their mortgage (Lisa Garland, et al. v. ServiceLink L.P., et al., No. GLR-13-1472, D. Md.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137143).

Washington Judge Denies Dismissal Of Patent Case On Ineligibility Grounds

SEATTLE - A patent dispute suit between dueling real estate websites will proceed, thanks to a Sept. 6 ruling by a Washington federal judge (Zillow Inc. v. Trulia Inc., No. 12-1549, W.D. Wash.).

ResCap: $10 Billion Claim By Real Estate Investor Should Be Expunged

NEW YORK - Bankrupt Residential Capital LLC (ResCap) on Sept. 4 filed a brief in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York contending that a $10 billion claim filed by a real estate investor in connection with a residential mortgage serviced by ResCap's affiliate GMAC Mortgage (GMACM) should be expunged (In Re: Residential Capital LLC, No. 12-12020, Chapter 11, S.D. N.Y. Bkcy.).

Judge Denies New Trial Over Alleged Settlement Services Scheme

BALTIMORE - A federal judge in Maryland on Aug. 28 denied a request for a new trial from a class claiming that Wells Fargo Bank N.A. and its co-defendants engaged in a scheme to kick back referral fees for settlement services in violation of the Section 8(c) of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), finding that the plaintiffs should have acted sooner after a statement made by defense counsel during closing arguments (Denise Minter, et al. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., et al., No. WMN-07-3442, D. Md.).

Indiana Panel: Third-Party Claims, Reserve Info Is Discoverable In Bad Faith Case

INDIANAPOLIS - Information on similar hail damage claims made by other insureds is relevant to a property owner's bad faith and breach of contract claims against its insurer, an Indiana Court of Appeals panel ruled Aug. 15, upholding a lower court's order to compel, while stating that the information might ultimately not be admissible (Auto-Owners Insurance Co. v. C & J Real Estate Inc., No. 49A04-1209-PL-477, Ind. App.; 2013 Ind. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1060).

Hostess CFO Says Asset Sale Valued At $64.25 Million Is Valid

NEW YORK - The chief financial officer (CFO) of bankrupt Old HB Inc., formerly known as Hostess Brands Inc., on Aug. 19 filed a declaration in support of the sale of real estate and equipment assets free and clear of all liens and encumbrances for $64.25 million (In Re: Old HB Inc. f/k/a Hostess Brands Inc., No. 12-22052, Chapter 11, S.D. N.Y. Bkcy.).

Federal Judge: No Coverage For Suit Over Alleged Failed Real Estate Development

OAKLAND, Calif. - A professional and executive liability insurance policy's automatic extended reporting period (AERP) does not apply to a claim against an investor and lender stemming from a purported failed real estate development, a California federal judge ruled Aug. 13, granting the insurer's motion for summary judgment in finding that the claim was untimely (PCCP LLC, et al. v. Endurance American Specialty Insurance Co., No. 12-CV-0447 YGR, N.D. Calif.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114400).

D.C. Court Reverses Dismissal Of Mold-Related Condo Claims Against Agency

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A District of Columbia appellate panel on Aug. 15 partially reversed a trial court's dismissal of claims asserted by condo owners who alleged that defects resulted in mold growth and water damage, finding that they sufficiently pleaded their fraud claims and causes of action for violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) (Adam Lee Wetzel, et al. v. Capital City Real Estate LLC, No. 12-CV-1218, D.C. App.; 2013 D.C. App. LEXIS 492).

Federal Judge Finds No 'Property Damage' Alleged During Insurance Policy

MINNEAPOLIS - An insurer has no duty to defend or indemnify additional insureds for damages in a condominium complex project because there are no allegations of "property damage" during the policy period, a Minnesota federal judge ruled Aug. 13 (Milwaukee Mutual Insurance Co., n/k/a Milwaukee Insurance Co. v. Centex Real Estate Corp., et al., No. 12-2067, D. Minn.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 113769).

Federal Judge Refuses To Reconsider Employees' Mold-Related Exposure Claims

ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands - A Virgin Islands federal judge on Aug. 1 refused to reconsider a decision that denied summary judgment in favor of a group of employees who alleged that they suffered injuries as a result of mold exposure at work, finding that they could not rely on a jury verdict in an associated case to support their breach of duty claims against a real estate agent (Barbara Richards, et al. v. Sydney Katz, et al., No. 2009-23, D. Virgin Islands; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107905).

No Coverage For Suits Arising From Real Estate Transactions, 8th Circuit Affirms

ST. LOUIS - The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 31 affirmed a lower federal court's ruling in favor of an errors and omissions insurer in a coverage dispute stemming from a title company insured's involvement in underlying real estate transactions (Lexington Insurance Co. v. Integrity Land Title Co., Inc. et al., No. 12-1599, 8th Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 15621).

Bankrupt MSR Hotels Seeks OK For Deal On Allocation Of Trademark Sale Proceeds

NEW YORK - Bankrupt Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) MSR Hotels & Resorts Inc. on July 22 moved for bankruptcy court approval of a stipulation between itself and two other parties pertaining to the allocation of proceeds from the sale of intellectual property assets (In Re: MSR Hotels & Resorts Inc., No. 13-11512, Chapter 11, S.D. N.Y. Bkcy.).

3rd Circuit: Title Agency's Recording Fee Did Not Violate RESPA

PHILADELPHIA - A Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 18 affirmed a ruling awarding summary judgment to a title agency after finding that a recording fee it charged a couple when refinancing their loan did not violate the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) but reinstated the plaintiffs' claims that the agency violated state contract laws and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) (Arthur R. Tubbs, et al. v. North American Title Agency Inc., et al., No. 11-4510, 3rd Cir.; 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 14722).

NMP Group LLC Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy To Avoid Loss Of Property At Auction

NEW YORK - Real estate company NMP Group LLC on July 10 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York to avoid having its property sold at auction following foreclosure proceedings (In Re: NMP Group LLC, No 13-12269, Chapter 11, S.D. N.Y. Bkcy.).

Judge: No Coverage For Claims Involving Alleged Fraudulent Real Estate Scheme

BECKLEY, W.Va. - An errors and omissions insurer has no duty to defend or indemnify against underlying claims that its insureds participated in a fraudulent scheme to purchase real estate at an inflated price, a West Virginia federal judge ruled July 1, granting the insurer's motion for a default judgment (American Automobile Insurance Co. v. John P. Smith, et al., No. 5:12-cv-08183, S.D. W.Va.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91763).

Judge Finds Bad Faith, Breach Claims Not Ripe Absent A Coverage Decision

GALVESTON, Texas - A Texas federal judge on June 27 found a real estate firm's declaratory claims related to its insurer's possible future claims denial to be speculative and, as such, premature, granting in part the insurer's motion to dismiss (Triyar Companies LLC, et al. v. Lexington Insurance Co., et al., No. 3:12-cv-294, S.D. Texas; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 90633).

Court Rejects Real Estate Agent's Competition Law Action Involving Insurance

SANTA ANA, Calif. - An errors and omissions insurance provision was secondary to the agreement between a real estate and broker and thus not unlawfully sold, a California appeals court held June 3 in affirming dismissal of California unfair competition law (UCL) claims (Marshall S. Griffith v. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Co., No. G047506, Calif. App., 4th Dist., Div. 3).

Missouri Court Reverses Ruling For Sellers In Mold Suit, Finds Genuine Fact Issues

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After finding that evidence submitted by the purchaser of a house that allegedly contained mold created a genuine issue of fact as to the scope of a settlement agreement between the parties, a Missouri appeals court on May 28 reversed a trial court's decision to grant summary judgment for the seller of the house and a real estate company (Deborah McIntire v. Glad Heart Properties, et al., No. WD75674, Mo. App., Western Dist., Div. 2; 2013 Mo. App. LEXIS 656).

Couple Sufficiently States Claim Under RESPA, Judge Rules

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A federal judge in Alabama on May 22 ruled that a couple could pursue a claim that Bank of America N.A. and its loan servicing arm BAC Home Loans violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) for their alleged failure to respond to qualified written requests (QWRs) for information about their loan but dismissed the remainder of the plaintiffs' lawsuit for failure to state a claim (Gregory Collins, et al. v. BAC Home Loans, et al., No. 12-cv-3721-LSC, N.D. Ala.; 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71466).