Local woman says bank reneged on disaster relief agreement

Kelly Holleran Jan. 25, 2010, 4:56am

A Jefferson County woman claims her bank has threatened to foreclose on her home after failing to follow through on its promise of forbearance and disaster relief.

Teri N. Segura filed a lawsuit Jan. 19 in Jefferson County District Court against Bank of America Corp., formerly known as Countrywide Home Loans Inc.

Segura claims she entered into a forbearance program with Bank of America in which the bank agreed to suspend mortgage payments after Hurricane Rita damaged her home on Sept. 24, 2005.

"Defendant referred to this program as a 'Disaster Relief Program,'" the suit states. "The forbearance agreement was instituted by Defendant with respect to hundreds of homes in the Jefferson County area that were damaged by Hurricane Rita."

In the forbearance agreement, Bank of America promised Segura and others they would not have to make a lump sum payment at the end of the forbearance period and that payments not made during the forbearance period would not be due until the end of the normal term of the loan, according to the complaint. In addition, the bank agreed to charge no late fees and to make no negative credit reports, the suit states.

However, Bank of America did not fulfill any of its promises, Segura alleges.

"Specifically, Defendant made negative credit reports on all Plaintiff's credit records noting that the loan was in default," the suit states. "This was done at the same time Defendant promised it would not take such an action. At the end of the forbearance period, Defendant notified Plaintiff that she would have to make a lump sum payment or she would be in default. The required lump sum payment included late fees and additional penalties despite Defendant's previous representations otherwise."

Segura's situation became much more serious after she says a contractor stole $70,000 of the $90,000 in insurance proceeds she received.

"She has since made most of the repairs to the house and has made the house livable by spending money out of her own pocket while at the same time renting an apartment because the house, which is the subject of this lawsuit was mostly unlivable during that time period," the complaint says. "After Hurricane Rita, Plaintiff was sent to a Disaster Relief Program and was told not to send any of her mortgage payments until she was living in the house."

According to the lawsuit, Segura's lawyers -- Wyatt D. Snider, Jason M. Byrd, Justin G. Sanderson and Russell W. Heald of Snider and Byrd in Beaumont -- have already represented hundreds of borrowers who were in similar positions. The bank settled with the borrowers on March 20 and March 23.

Although Segura belonged to the group of borrowers who reached settlement, the bank specifically excluded her from the settlement agreement, according to the complaint. Instead, it promised her relief that should have been negotiated outside the context of the settlement. In a consideration in which Countrywide would not have to pay attorneys' fees, Countrywide agreed to enter into a modification of Segura's loan, the suit states.

"Furthermore, Plaintiff has provided financial documents to Defendant, yet it has refused to acknowledge them and has refused to enter into any workout payment assistance with her as contemplated by the parties at the mediation and under the Settlement Agreement that references Terri Segura," the complaint says. "Therefore, Defendant has also breached the Settlement Agreement dated March 2009."

Since Hurricane Rita struck, Segura claims she has attempted to make payments to Bank of America, but the bank has refused them. The bank has also increased the amount of Segura's monthly payments, which she says she cannot afford.

In her four-count complaint, Segura alleges breach of contract, violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act, reformation and unjust enrichment.

She seeks actual, consequential, incidental and statutory damages, plus attorneys' fees, court costs, pre- and post-judgment agreement, reformation of the agreement and other relief to which she may be entitled.

The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: D185-738.

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