LUCERO v CENLAR FSB | $213,888.00 JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

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LUCERO v CENLAR FSB | $213,888.00 JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

LUCERO v CENLAR FSB | $213,888.00 JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON
AT SEATTLE

LETICIA LUCERO,
Plaintiff,

v.

CENLAR FSB, et al.,
Defendants.

No. C13-0602RSL

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

This matter was heard by the Court in a bench trial commencing on September 24, 2015,
and, after a month’s recess to allow defendant Cenlar FSB to produce its witness, concluding on
October 27, 2015. Plaintiff Leticia Lucero brought this action against her mortgage loan servicer
alleging that it violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), breached its
contractual and good faith obligations, and committed the tort of outrage when it charged
attorney’s fees and costs to plaintiff’s mortgage account and refused to explain the charges upon
request. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and attorney’s fees in this litigation.

[…]

C. Outrage
The elements of the tort of outrage are “(1) extreme and outrageous conduct,
(2) intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, and (3) severe emotional distress on
the part of plaintiff.” Rice v. Janovich, 109 Wn.2d 48, 61 (1987). Based on the evidence
submitted at trial, plaintiff has raised a reasonable inference and the Court finds that Cenlar,
annoyed that plaintiff had sued it after obtaining a loan modification and looking for leverage to
force her to abandon this litigation, adopted a strained and unprincipled analysis of the Deed of
Trust7 to justify the imposition of unpredictable and enormous charges directly onto plaintiff’s
mortgage statements as “Amounts Due.” Cenlar, having reviewed plaintiff’s financial situation
less than a year before and being fully aware that plaintiff was paying late charges every month,
had no reason to believe that she could cope with these charges. Cenlar reasonably should have
known (and was likely counting on the fact) that these charges would cause immense emotional
distress, which they did. Cenlar compounded the distress by denying plaintiff information about
these charges or the justification therefore. The first notice of the charges stated that they were
charged “in keeping with Washington law.” This assertion is wholly unsupported: Cenlar’s
witness acknowledges that the letter was a form into which the reference to “Washington law”
was inserted simply because the loan originated in Washington. No Washington case law,
statute, or regulation has been identified that authorize the charges levied against plaintiff’s
mortgage account. When plaintiff requested information regarding the charges, she was ignored
for months. Eventually various contract provisions were identified, and Cenlar asserted that it
was simply keeping track of charges it might eventually seek to recover from plaintiff.8
Regardless of whether Cenlar was demanding immediate payment or was simply threatening to
collect them in the future, the message was clear: continue this litigation and we will take your
home. Such conduct is beyond the bounds of decency and is utterly intolerable.
Damages caused by Cenlar’s outrageous conduct include:

$26,724 in charges to her account with NationStar
$1,950 in attorney’s fees for drafting and sending requests for information to Cenlar
$208 time spent reviewing documents regarding charges imposed on her mortgage account
$30 in gas traveling to and from attorney’s office
$12 in copying and postage expenses related to the requests for information
$2,700 in counseling expenses
$21,504 in lost wages from November 2014 to February 2015
$13,760 in reduced wages from March 2015 to December 2015
$55,000 in emotional distress damages from December 4, 2013, to March 24, 2014
$42,500 in emotional distress damages from March 25, 2014, to June 18, 2014
$49,500 in emotional distress damages from June 19, 2014, to October 27, 2015
for a total of $213,888.

For all of the foregoing reasons, the Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment in favor
plaintiff and against defendant in the amount of $213,888.9 To the extent plaintiff has a
contractual or statutory right to attorney’s fees, she may file a motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.
54(d)(2).

Dated this 28th day of January, 2016.

Robert S. Lasnik
United States District Judge

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