Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lower Court Ruling Leading To Low-Income Homeowners Being 'Priced Out' Of Court Faces Appellate Challenge From Consumer Advocates

From a post in Public Citizen's Consumer Law & Policy Blog:

  • After Pittsburgh-area homeowner Mary Glover was subjected to a series of overcharges on her mortgage and misallocation of her payments by Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo, she filed a putative class action under state contract law, the FDCPA, and state consumer protection laws.

  • When the financial institutions stonewalled during discovery, the magistrate judge -- instead of simply adjudicating Ms. Glover's motions to compel -- told the parties they ought to work out their disputes and if they couldn't, he'd appoint a special master.

  • They couldn't, and he made good on his threat, ordering that the master's fees be split equally between the large institutional defendants and Ms. Glover, whose only income is less than $10,000 in Social Security disability benefits.

  • [P]ublic Citizen filed a mandamus petition in the Third Circuit to overturn the appointment of the special master. The issues we raise are whether a special master's costs can be allocated in such a way as to price a low-income litigant out of court, and whether a special master could be appointed in the first place for the purpose of coercing parties into settling their discovery disputes. (Obviously we believe the answer to both questions is "no.")

  • Our petition, filed in cooperation with Michael P. Malakoff who brought the case originally, is here.

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