Monday, October 28, 2013
Shuster & Saben was not the first law firm hired by a Viera, Florida homeowner to defend their foreclosure case. Their first lawyer handled their bankruptcy case but when JP Morgan’s counsel began to aggressively move the case toward trial their bankruptcy counsel suggested they consult with our firm to obtain counsel that would fight their case through trial.
While the firm prepared for war by serving discovery requests and conducting a thorough investigation of the case we also tried to make peace by extending settlement offers. Our position was that since the client discharged the debt in bankruptcy, JP Morgan could still take the house but could not take the client’s money. The client owned nearly twice what their house was worth. Before the client hired our firm JP Morgan put the client in a terrible loan medication that locked the client into a fixed rate of nearly 7% and removed the variable interest rate feature of the mortgage less than a year before it would have adjusted to a lower rate. We reasoned that if getting the house was the best JP Morgan could ever do, a principal reduction loan modification that would give JP Morgan a mortgage balance substantially above the current value of the home but substantially lower than the current loan balance would be a reasonable compromise and a win-win settlement. JP Morgan rebuffed our efforts to settle by making only one take-it or leave-it offer with a tiny interest rate reduction and no principal reduction. JP Morgan told us it was their way or the highway. It was time to prepare for battle.
On September 11, 2013, after JP Morgan’s attorney’s Choice Legal Group failed to respond to requests for admission, our firm filed a motion for summary judgment in favor of the Defendant homeowner. The motion for summary judgment was scheduled for October 17, 2013. Choice Legal, even after getting the motion for summary judgment failed to respond to the requests for admission. When the motion was set for hearing they continued to do nothing. On October 17, 2013, the Court adjudicated our motion for summary judgment. Since JP Morgan Chase never responded to our requests for admissions the Court deemed that it was admitted that JP Morgan did not own or hold the note. The Court entered summary judgment and final judgment based on the admissions. Our client has won the case and has proven that JP Morgan does not own or hold the note. The Court’s order provides that JP Morgan shall take nothing from this action meaning they will not get our client’s home or one thin dime of our client’s money. Our client as the prevailing party will recover attorney’s fees from JP Morgan. To read the entire order click here.
About Shuster & Saben,LLC… Shuster & Saben aggressively litigates foreclosure cases. Our active counter-attacks on banks and loan servicers give foreclosure mill attorneys plenty of chances to drop the ball. Lawyers whose goal is delay might be content to wait for the bank’s lawyers to pick up the ball. Not us. We play to win. We know its our job to recover the fumble and head for the end zone. That is how we win cases like this one.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
When a Melbourne, Florida resident hired our firm to defend the foreclosure action filed in 2010 against her home she never expected to win her case. The recession had wiped out the client’s employment, savings and the value of her home. The client owned well over twice what her home was worth, and without her regular employed and quickly depleting savings, she could no longer afford her mortgage. The client’s attempts to obtain a real loan modification from Astoria were unsuccessful. The client felt that her back was up against the wall and that she had no choice but to stop paying her mortgage.
After extensive research to find skilled and compatible foreclosure defense attorney, she ultimately interviewed multiple attorneys before choosing the Space Coast office of Shuster & Saben to defend her case. Her goal in 2010, was to simply stay in the home as long as possible. While aggressively litigating the case, we tried to obtain a loan modification with principal reduction or a waiver of deficiency but Astoria wanted the client’s home and either her money or a deficiency judgment. Astoria Bank would not be backing down. Now our back was against the wall to. Time to work hard and hit harder.
When the client interviewed various law firms to choose the right attorney, one of the things that impressed her about Shuster & Saben, were the issues and defenses our firm spotted during the initial consultation, that were missed by other lawyers (or paralegals) at other firms she consulted with. One of the issues that later arose in her case was the fact that the demand letter (also known as a notice of acceleration) did not tell the homeowner how much to pay to bring the account current. The letter merely instructed the homeowner to call Astoria to find out how much to pay. Paragraph 22 of the homeowner’s mortgage required that the Notice Specify (a) the default; and (b) the action required to cure the default…
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Firm attorney, Richard Shuster was not the first lawyer hired by a Brevard family to defend the foreclosure case filed against their million-dollar riverfront home. The first lawyer hired by the family was a flat-fee lawyer whose objective was to delay foreclosure. After the case was several months old the bank moved for summary judgment and the flat-fee attorney suggested to the homeowners that the end was near. The flat fee lawyer thought the only option was to cut a deal where the homeowners would give up their home in exchange for an extended sale date that would get them three or four extra months in the home.
The homeowners happened upon a family friend at a popular beachside restaurant who was a prior foreclosure defense client of Shuster & Saben. The client told the homeowner, how Shuster & Saben successfully resolved their case and suggested that they get a second opinion with firm attorney Richard Shuster. At first, the homeowner was hesitant over the fact that hiring Shuster & Saben would be significantly more expensive than what they had paid to hire the flat fee lawyer. After several weeks of delay, the homeowner called the Space Coast office of Shuster & Saben for a free foreclosure defense consultation. During the consultation, attorney Shuster found a significant mistake made by the bank that had been overlooked by the flat-fee lawyer. During the consultation, Shuster explained the strengths and weaknesses of the bank’s case and laid out a plan of attack that would be implemented if the homeowner hired the firm. Ater sleeping on the issue for one night the couple hired Shuster & Saben, the day after the consultation. Shuster went to work on the case immediately, implementing the plan laid out in the consultation. In less than six months Shuster obtained an order dismissing the case. U.S. Bank then moved for rehearing which was denied by the Court. After Shuster won the foreclosure case, he timely moved for attorney’s fees and costs to recover money from US Bank to reimburse legal expenses previously paid for by the client and pay for work done by the firm that the client was not charged for.
On August 13, 2013, the Court entered a final judgment for attorney’s fees and costs against US Bank, ordering the bank to pay $18,500.00 for attorney’s fees and costs. To view a redacted copy of the order click here. When the judgment is paid, the firm’s client will receive thousands of dollars back.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
In this video firm attorney Richard Shuster, answers a blog visitor's question about why this blog features copies of checks from cases where the bank lost the case and was ordered to pay attorney's fees.
For the second year in a row, firm attorney Richard Shuster, has accepted the Brevard Bar Foundation’s invitation to present a lecture at the Space Coast Community Law School. Shuster will present this free lecture on foreclosure defense at the Brevard Courthouse in Viera, Florida on October 17. 2013. The seminar is designed to educate consumers about the foreclosure process, how to avoid default, how to answer a foreclosure complaint, legal defenses to foreclosure, conducting discovery, foreclosure mediation, loan modification, summary judgment, and trial. Homeowners interested in the Space Coast Community Law School visit www.spacecoastcommunitylawschool.com
In the video below Florida foreclosure defense attorney Richard Shuster explains the importance of trial experience in evaluating potential law firms to defend a foreclosure case and how consumers can evaluate whether a lawyer has adequate trial experience to properly defend their case.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
In 2011, firm attorney Richard Shuster obtained the dismissal of a foreclosure case filed against a Brevard County law enforcement officer. After the case was dismissed our firm filed a motion for attorney’s fees to recover money from U.S. Bank to reimburse as much as possible of the fees paid by the homeowner to our firm and to recover payment for the portion for our time that was spent on a pure contingency fee basis. (Under our firm’s retainer agreement, a substantial portion of the time spent on the case is on a contingency fee basis meaning unless we win the case and recover fees from the bank we do not get paid for the time). On January 12, 2012, a fee hearing was conducted before Brevard Circuit Judge John D. Moxley, Jr. to determine the amount of attorney’s fees US Bank would have to pay. The case had numerous hearings after U.S. Bank’s lawyers, Douglas Zahm, P.A. had objected to almost all of the homeowner’s discovery requests, and our firm had to repeatedly go to Court to obtain orders overruling the bank’s objections and ordering the bank to provide discovery.
The time sheet filed by Douglas Zahm’s office showed they had worked approximately seventy hours by the time the bank moved for summary judgment. Ultimately our firm worked over 100 hours on the case before we obtained a dismissal. At the fee hearing the Court awarded 95 of the 101 ours we requested. After adding expert witness fees, costs, and interest, the attorney fee judgment against U.S. Bank came to $46,878.20. This judgment was the largest fee judgment rendered against a bank in Brevard County in 2012. The hours were much higher in this case because both firms fought the case very hard and “went to the mat.”
U.S. Bank brought in Lee L. Haas, a board certified business litigation attorney to handle the appeal. Firm attorney, Richard Shuster, who handled the case at the trial level, fought on for the homeowner in the appeals Court. While this was the firm’s first foreclosure appeal, Shuster had prior appellate experience in the First and Third District Court’s of Appeal. The firm handled the appeal on a pure contingency fee basis, meaning the client paid no fees to our firm while the appeal was pending and the firm would only get paid if we won the appeal and appellate attorney’s fees were awarded. During the fifteen months the appeal was pending our client paid nothing for attorney’s fees and made no mortgage payments. The firm will now collect the original trial level fee award from the appellate bond paid by US Bank and seek additional appellate fees for writing an appellate brief that was approximately 40 pages long. To view a redacted copy of the 5th DCA’s Per Curium Affirmed Opinion clink here. A Per Curium Affirmed opinion means the appellate Court unanimously found that the trial Court did not commit any errors.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
In February 2010, I wrote a blog post that explained the four primary pricing methods ( hourly, flat fee, monthly and hybrid) used by foreclosure defense firms. To read the whole blog post on this subject click here. I have recently noticed a trend where lawyers and law firms are using marketing strategies that in my opinion are bait and switch tactics.
If a consumer sees a sign that says SALE – Unleaded Gas - $2.00 per gallon, most consumers know that the price is to good to be true and will be looking for the catch. Perhaps the price is only good for the first gallon of gas or is only good with purchase of an alignment job at an inflated price. Gas stations in 2013 can’t sell gas for $2.00 a gallon because it costs the gas station more than $2.00 to buy the gas.
Unfortunately, many consumers will not know that a the promise of a $1,000.00 or $1,500.00 flat fee foreclosure defense is just about always an offer that is to good to be true. We are seeing consumers come to our office after either firing their old lawyer or after their old lawyer withdrew from their case. In many cases the consumer saw advertising material and thought they would pay a one-time fee of $1,000 or $1,500.00 and would never need to spend another dime for the duration of their case. Once the consumer actually visited the law firm they found out that the $1,000.00 was just an “initial” payment for the first thee or six months of their case. After the initial period was over the consumer had to “re-hire” the lawyer for another six month or one year term ( it varies by firm) for an even higher fee.
We think lawyers who advertise a flat fee price should offer true flat fee prices. Nobody who comes to a lawyer’s office and spends an hour in a consultation thinking the costs is one number should find out when they read the fine print that over a two year engagement the price will be three or four times higher than the price they saw on the web.
At Shuster & Saben, we aspire to have a simple, clear, understandable, and predictable billing method. The client (on loans of under $500,000.00) pays $495.00 per month for the first hour we work each month and any additional hours we work are on a pure contingency fee basis, where we do not get paid at all unless we win the case and get the fees paid as prevailing party attorney’s fees paid by the losing bank. Our clients do not have to worry about paying a few thousand dollars to renew for six months or a year when their case is on the eve of settlement or trial and might soon we won or settled in a matter of weeks. Our clients can predict and budget for their legal expenses.
For the likes of me, I can’t figure out how a lawyer can take a foreclosure case on for $1,500.00 and litigate the case for three years and take the case to trial all for $1,500.00. Some flat fee lawyers cut corners with short form answers, and do not bother to conduct discovery, take depositions, or engage in trial preparation. Perhaps other flat fee lawyers can make it work by buying $2.00 gas.