Jury awards soldier $21 million after mortgage mix-up

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Staff Sergeant David Brash is now a very wealthy man thanks to a Columbus jury.

When Brash bought a home off of Flat Rock Road in Columbus in 2007, he got a loan from PHH Mortgage Corporation, doing business as Coldwell Banker.

His mortgage payments were automatically taken out of his account each month with no problem. Suddenly in 2009, he began receiving late notices from the company.

After making long calls to their customer service department, which is outsourced to India, he could not get the problem solved and he was eventually reported to credit agencies.

Brash sued PHH and Monday, a federal jury awarded him more than $21 million in damages. He sued the company on violations of the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act in the servicing of his loan as well as for violations of Georgia state law, including negligent loan servicing and breach of contract, and for attorney fees and punitive damages.

"This soldier was never behind on his payments. They were taking his money and not crediting it properly. I think the jury and everybody has had this experience before with the call center and they're fed up with it. They started to make his credit delinquent. They wrote him letters saying he was behind on his mortgage and it affected his credit. And by affecting his credit, he got turned down for credit cards and was worried he'd get in trouble with the Army. It was a very disheartening process for him to go through," said Austin Gower, with the Charles A. Gower Law Firm that represented Brash.

Gower says Staff Sergeant Brash never did get an explanation from the company on the mix-up with his payments. In fact, he says the company blamed Brash for not properly filling out paperwork.

"The jury has spoken on the verdict. I think it was important for them to send a message to this billion dollar company. Had they given a dollar verdict it wouldn't have sent the message but I promise you, I think we got their attention now that these mortgage companies need to pay more attention to their customers and not just send them to some out of country call center. They need to take their calls and get this thing straightened out," Gower added.

Gower would not elaborate on what the soldier plans to do with the money. He declined to reveal Brash's unit. He says evidence shows PHH Mortgage serviced approximately one million mortgages valued at $163 billion.

Staff Sergeant Brash is married, with a child on the way. In total, he was awarded $21,350,575.

Jonathan McGrain, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for PHH Corporation released this statement to WTVM Tuesday: "PHH Mortgage is recognized as one of the nation's leading mortgage servicers, and we take our responsibilities to borrowers seriously. Although we respect the judicial process, we believe this verdict is not supported by the facts of the case or by applicable law, and that the award is grossly disproportionate to any damages Sgt. Brash may have sustained. We intend to seek further judicial review of the case."

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