The attorneys fees and costs awarded under W. Va. Code § 46A-5-104(1994) shall be included in the compensatory to punitive damages ratio where punitive damages are available to a plaintiff because there was a finding of common law fraud. Accordingly, attorneys fees and costs awarded under § 46A-5-104 of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, W. Va. Code § 46A-1-101 et seq., shall be included in the compensatory to punitive damages ratio in cases where punitive damages are available.
The borrower applied for consolidation of her property debt with a large national mortgage lender (ML), and she was ultimately persuaded to proceed based on an alleged promise of refinancing. However, the ML thereafter refused to refinance the loan. The trial court found that the appraisal was grossly inflated, review thereof was negligently conducted, and the executed loan varied greatly from the original loan presented to the borrower. Post-trial relief was denied.
Was the court order granting punitive damages under a quasi contract theory proper?
The court reversed the order of the trial court with respect to one aspect of the fraud finding regarding discount points, and as to the remedies of punitive damages and cancellation of the loan principal. The matter was otherwise affirmed, and the court remanded the case with directions to provide further analysis under the punitive damage claim, and to provide an offset to the defendant for settlement amounts received by the borrower.
The court found that there was clear and convincing evidence that the ML committed fraud, statutorily deceptive practices, and unconscionability with respect to the loan. However, the trial court lacked legal authority to cancel the borrower's obligation to repay the loan principal. Rather, a balancing of the equities required that the parties be returned to the status quo. The trial court's conclusory order on punitive damages did not satisfy the requirements for purposes of reviewability. The court held that attorneys fees under W. Va. Code § 46A-5-104 (1995) were to be included in the compensatory to punitive damages ratio, and the ML was entitled to an offset for settlements received by the borrower from others.