All too often, the media presents poor people in America as lazy and addicted and wanting something for nothing. Rarely does a corporation or company doing business get outed for really being that way.
But in a case resolved this week, a federal jury awarded $6,128.39 in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages to David M. Daugherty of Vienna, West Virginia.
Daugherty had items on his credit report that stated he was behind on his mortgage payments and also in foreclosure.
Neither of these things were true. Daugherty had a balloon payment coming due, and was trying to re-finance his property. Because of the credit report, of course, he was unable to get a refinance.
Daugherty did everything right. He wrote to the credit reporting agencies, stating the incorrect data on his report and requesting an investigation and correction of the false records.
The mortgage company, Ocwen, said that because Daugherty had other outstanding balances, it didn't matter if the foreclosure information was true or not. Because he would be denied the loan whether or not their credit score report was correct, they did not have to do their work. They didn't investigate the full credit report, just Daugherty's social security number and account balances.
Yep, lazy and addicted and wanting something for nothing.
Daugherty's attorney said he thinks the jury came up with the $2.5 million figure for punitive damages when Ocwen testified that it was the company’s policy to not look past that basic information when investigating a dispute.
“I can’t say what the jury thought, but it seems to me that it wasn’t just a matter of Ocwen made a mistake looking at the report,” Nolan said. “I think the jury got frustrated Ocwen wasn’t looking beyond these basic information points and not verifying what they were told was accurate.
“I don’t think the jury was swayed by sympathy. They sent a strong message that you have to follow the law. You have to investigate these disputes. They said Ocwen didn’t do enough to investigate his complaint. It wasn’t just a negligent mistake. It was willful.