LOS ANGELES, May 16, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- In the largest class action trial judgement ever entered against a real estate escrow company, a Los Angeles judge decided Monday that First American Title Company unlawfully overcharged more than 70,000 persons for escrow related services.
Following a two month trial, Judge John J. Kralik ruled that class members who paid First American more than $100 for sub-escrow services were entitled to reimbursement, as were those who paid First American a fee of more than $15 for a single wire transfer. Judge Kralik also awarded class members interest and court costs. Attorney Steven Jay Bernheim of Beverly Hills, who represented the class along with Santa Monica attorney Taras Kick and other counsel, estimates that the total amount of the judgement, including interest and costs, will exceed $3 million when all calculations are finalized.
The class members were persons who bought, sold or refinanced California homes from June 15, 2003 to October 8, 2007.
First American fought the class action lawsuit, filed by homeowner Patrick Kirk, for seven years before it went to trial, and made at least six separate, unsuccessful attempts to convince the court to dismiss the case.During the two month trial, the court heard or read testimony from 33 witnesses and considered 300 exhibits. First American Title Company, the defendant in the case, is a wholly owned subsidiary of First American Title Insurance Company, which is itself wholly owned by First American Financial, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange (ticker symbol FAF). All First American companies are headquartered in Orange County, California. Attorney Bernheim commented: "I would not be surprised if, in light of this verdict, many people decide not to do business with First American in the future, given their track record revealed at trial and in the judge's decision."