Case No. 1:19-cv-00375-JEJ
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The plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that Freedom Mortgage Corporation improperly or unnecessarily charged fees to borrowers on mortgage loans it serviced for property inspections conducted due to the borrowers defaulting or being delinquent on their mortgage. Freedom Mortgage denies the allegations in the lawsuit or that it is liable for any of the claims in the lawsuit, and contends that its conduct was at all times lawful and proper. The court has not made any judgment or other determination of the liability of Freedom Mortgage in the lawsuit.
A class action is similar to other types of civil lawsuits, except that the plaintiffs also serve as class representatives, meaning that they are suing both on their own behalf and on behalf of a group of other similarly-situated people who are not personally named as parties to the case. Various procedures and requirements are in place in a class action to ensure that the interests of the class are fairly represented. Among other things, the court must approve the appointment of plaintiffs as the class representatives and plaintiffs’ counsel as class counsel. Likewise, a class action may not be settled unless the court determines that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate, and should be approved. In a class action, determinations by the court, whether or not favorable to the plaintiff, will generally bind the members of the class that the plaintiff represents, unless a class member has requested to be excluded from the class.
The class members are represented by plaintiffs Michael Gress and Brandy Gress. The Court has also appointed the law firms Finkelstein, Blankinship, Frei-Pearson & Garber, LLP and Levin, Papantonio, Rafferty, Proctor, Buchanan, O’Brien, Barr & Mougey, P.A. as class counsel, and these law firms will act as lawyers for all of the class members. Class counsel may be contacted as follows:
Telephone: (844) 431-0695
Email: [email protected]
Mail: D. Greg Blankinship
Finkelstein, Blankinship, Frei-Pearson & Garber, LLP
One North Broadway, Suite 900
White Plains, New York 10601
Both sides have agreed to a negotiated settlement to avoid the costs, risks, and uncertainties of further litigation. If litigation were to continue, the case could take a long time before it is resolved and class members could end up getting nothing if the court ultimately decided the case in the defendant’s favor. The class representatives and class counsel have concluded that this settlement is a good result for class members because it provides an immediate and substantial monetary benefit to the class, especially in light of the risks and uncertainties if the litigation were to continue.
The court has preliminarily approved the settlement and will decide later whether to give final approval to the Settlement. The information on this website is part of a court-mandated process to give class members notice of the settlement. Among other things, the notice is intended to describe the nature of the lawsuit, the general terms of the proposed settlement, and the rights and obligations of class members. Class members should review this information carefully, as this settlement will affect their legal rights.
The class for purposes of this settlement is defined as all borrowers in the United States whose Mortgages were or are serviced by Freedom Mortgage and who paid money to Freedom Mortgage for fees on property inspections conducted on their property due to the borrower defaulting or being delinquent on their Mortgage (“Default Property Inspections”), between March 5, 2013 and December 31, 2020. The settlement does not apply to: (a) fees for Default Property Inspections assessed by Freedom Mortgage that were not paid by the borrower; (b) fees for Default Property Inspections that were refunded to the borrower; (c) fees for Default Property Inspections paid by third-parties; or (d) borrowers who provided Freedom Mortgage with a release of claims which cover the claims in this case, including where the release was provided directly or through a class representative as part of another class action or class action settlement.
Anyone who falls under this definition is a member of the class, unless they expressly request to be excluded from the class (as explained below).
The settlement provides that class members who submit a valid claim will be eligible to receive a monetary payment equal to 35% of the amount of the first property inspection fee they paid to Freedom Mortgage and 50% of the amount of all subsequent property inspection fees they paid to Freedom Mortgage. To the extent there are multiple borrower (co-borrowers) on a particular loan which is covered by the class, the co-borrowers will be jointly eligible for one payment based on the formula described above.
The value of each individual claims will be determined based on the formula described above. This website has a feature which allows potential class members to look up the estimated value of their personal claim based on information which is currently available. The exact final value for payments to class members who submit valid claims will be determined once the class receives final approval and will be based on the most up-to-date information at that time.
If you received a postcard providing notice of this class action which contains a tear-off claim form, you may submit a claim by mail by following the instruction on the tear-off claim form. Otherwise, you can submit a claim online through this website, or you may contact the settlement administrator to request a paper claim form which may be submitted by mail. Claimants must provide all information which is requested on the claim form and follow all instructions on the form. All borrowers and/or co-borrowers on a loan will also need to sign the claim form.
Mailed claim forms must be postmarked by December 16, 2021, and must be received by the settlement administrator no later than December 31, 2021. Claims submitted over this website must be submitted no later than December 16, 2021. Claims which are submitted after this time will be deemed untimely and will be treated as invalid.
Assuming the settlement receives final approval from the court, the settlement administrator will mail checks to class members who submitted valid claims within 115 days of the Settlement reaching finality (i.e., within 115 days after the time to appeal approval of the settlement has passed or when any appeals of the approval of the settlement are resolved in favor of the approval).
The settlement administrator will review submitted claims to determine whether they are valid. Among other things, the settlement administrator will determine whether the person who submitted the claim is a class member, whether the claim was submitted prior to the deadline for claim submission, whether it contains all requested information and complies with all instructions described on the claim form, and whether the claim is signed by all co-borrowers on the loan. The parties will also have the right to review and audit claims to ensure they are valid. If the parties are unable to agree or reach a consensus on whether a particular claim is valid, the settlement administrator shall make the final, binding determination on whether the claim is valid.
All class members who do not exclude themselves from the class will be eligible to submit a claim for a monetary payment, but will also be bound by the terms of the Settlement. Among other things, regardless of whether they submit claim, class members who do not exclude themselves will be releasing their claims against Freedom Mortgage and will not be able to later sue Freedom Mortgage regarding: a) the matters alleged and claims asserted in the litigation and/or claims that could have been alleged therein based on the facts alleged in the complaint filed in the litigation; (b) the origination or servicing of the class member’s loans that are the subject of the settlement with respect to property inspections or contractual provisions related to property inspections; (c) Freedom Mortgage’s acts or omissions related to the conduct of the property inspections; and (d) the property inspection fees charged by Freedom Mortgage and paid by the class members.
This release applies to claims even if the class member was not aware the claims existed and even if the class member would not have agreed to the settlement if they had known of the claims. Class members shall be deemed to have waived any and all provisions, rights, and benefits conferred by any law of any state or territory of the United States, or principle of common law or foreign law, which is similar, comparable, or equivalent to California Civil Code § 1542, which provides:
A general release does not extend to claims that the creditor or releasing party does not know or suspect to exist in his or her favor at the time of executing the release and that, if known by him or her, would have materially affected his or her settlement with the debtor or released party.
As part of the settlement, class members shall be deemed to have acknowledged that the foregoing waiver related to unknown claims was separately bargained for and is a key element of the settlement, and class members will not be able to sue Freedom Mortgage with respect to claims that are released as part of the settlement even if they later discover facts in addition to or different from those which they now know or believe to be true with respect to the subject matters of the released claims.
Class members who wish to object to the settlement or some part of the settlement may do so by filing a written objection with the court no later than December 16, 2021. Objections must set forth in detail each component of the settlement to which the class member objects, the reasons for each such objection, and any legal authority that they wish the court to consider. All objections must be signed by the person making the objection. Objections must also include the objector’s full name and current address, the full name and current address of any co-borrower(s) on their mortgage loan which qualified them for inclusion in the class, the address of the property which secured the mortgage that qualifies them for inclusion in the class, and an affirmation, under penalty of perjury, that the person on whose behalf the objection is filed and their co-borrower(s), if any, object to the Settlement and intend to appear at the final fairness hearing, at which time their objections will be considered, if not previously withdrawn.
Objections must be mailed to the court at the following address:
Clerk of the Court
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
P.O. Box 1148
235 North Washington Avenue
Scranton, PA 18501-1148
Additionally, copies of the objections must be served on both of the following:
D. Greg Blankinship
Finkelstein, Blankinship, Frei-Pearson & Garber, LLP
One North Broadway, Suite 900
White Plains, New York 10601
Jason W. McElroy
Weiner Brodsky Kider PC
1300 Nineteenth Street, NW, Fifth Floor
Washington, DC 20036
The court will hear and rule on any objects as part of the final approval hearing. No later than seven days before the final approval hearing, class members who object (or their counsel) will be provided with a Zoom video-conferencing link which will allow them to attend the final approval hearing.
You may exclude yourself from the class. Class members who exclude themselves will not be eligible to submit a claim or to receive a payment under this settlement, but will also not be bound by the other terms and conditions of the settlement, including the release of claims, such that they may be able to sue Freedom Mortgage later with respect to the issues in this case.
To exclude yourself from the class, you must submit a request for exclusion to the settlement administrator no later than December 16, 2021. Requests for exclusion must be signed by the person requesting exclusion from the Class and any co-borrower(s) on their mortgage which qualifies them for the Class, and must include the requestor’s full name and current address, the full name and current address of any co-borrower(s) on their Mortgage which qualifies them for the Class, the address of the property which secured their mortgage which qualifies them for the class, and a clear and unequivocal statement that the requestor and any co-borrowers on the Mortgage seek to be excluded from the Class in this case. If a request for exclusion does not contain the signatures of all co-borrowers on the mortgage (or if each co-borrower on the mortgage does not submit a separate, complete request for Exclusion), if the co-borrowers on a loan cannot agree about whether to seek exclusion from the Class, or if any of the co-borrowers on a loan do not consent to the exclusion, then a request for exclusion by less than all of the co-borrowers on the loan shall be void and of no effect, and all the co-borrowers on that loan shall be and remain part of the Class.
The request for exclusion must be mailed to:
Gress v. Freedom Mortgage
c/o Kroll Settlement Administration LLC
P.O. Box 5234
New York, NY 10150-5234
The procedure described above is the only way to request exclusion from the class. Class members cannot exclude themselves by phone, by e-mail, or by contacting anyone but the settlement administrator in the manner and by the deadline set forth above.
Objecting means that you are telling the Court that you do not like the settlement or some part of it, and that you either want some aspect of the settlement to be changed or do not want the settlement to be approved. If the settlement is approved, objectors will be part of the class and will be able to submit a claim, but will also be bound by all of the other terms and conditions of the settlement, including the release of claims.
Excluding yourself is telling the court that you do not want to be part of the class. If you exclude yourself, you have no basis to object because the settlement no longer affect you. Class members who exclude themselves will not be eligible to submit a claim or to receive a payment under this settlement, but will also not be bound by the other terms and conditions of the settlement, including the release of claims.
Class members cannot both object to the settlement and exclude themselves from the class. Any class member who purports to both object to the settlement and exclude themselves from the class will be deemed to have excluded themselves, and their objections will be treated as moot.
If you do not submit a claim and do not exclude yourself from the class, you will not receive any monetary payment and will not be allowed to submit a claim for a monetary payment after the deadline for submitting claims has passed. However, you will still be bound by the terms of the settlement, including the release of claims, and you will not be able to sue Freedom Mortgage later over these issues.
Class counsel will ask the court for an award of attorney’s fees of up to $791,239 and an award of costs and expenses of up to $115,000. Additionally, class counsel will ask the court for a service award of up to $5,000 for Plaintiffs Michael Gress and Brandy Gress, which will be in addition to any amount they are eligible to claim as members of the class. The amounts awarded by the Court will be paid by Freedom Mortgage, and class members will not be liable to pay anything to the class counsel or the class representatives. Any amounts awarded to class counsel and the class representatives will not reduce or affect the amount of money which other class members are eligible to receive if they submit a valid claim.
The Court will hold a final approval hearing on February 10, 2022 at 10:30 EST via Zoom. At this hearing, the Court will consider whether the Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. If there are valid and timely objections, the Court will consider them. The Court will also consider whether and how much money to award to class counsel for their attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses, and to the Plaintiffs for their service awards. The Court may make its final decision on these issues at the hearing, or at a later date.
Class members are not required to attend the final fairness hearing unless they objected and intend to be heard by the court regarding their objection.
If you wish to speak at the final approval hearing, you must submit a timely and valid objection to the settlement. Prior to the date of the final approval hearing, information on how to participate in the hearing will be provided to class members who submit timely and valid objections.
If the court does not grant final approval to the settlement, of if the settlement agreement is otherwise terminated, the parties will be returned to their respective legal positions prior to the signing of the settlement agreement. Among other things, class members will no longer be eligible for any monetary payments pursuant to the settlement, and will also not be bound by any of the terms and conditions of the settlement, including the release of claims.
The settlement administrator is a company which handles various administrative tasks in connection with the class action settlement, including mailing certain notices and documents to the class, processing claims, and mailing checks to class members who submit valid claims. The settlement administrator can be contacted through this website, by phone at (833) 765-2108, or by mail at, Gress v. Freedom Mortgage, c/o Kroll Settlement Administration LLC, P.O. Box 5234, New York, NY 10150-5234.
The information on this website contains only a summary of the settlement. The full terms and conditions of the settlement are contained in the settlement agreement and in certain court orders regarding the settlement, which are available HERE. Class members may also contact the settlement administrator or class counsel for additional information. Class members should not directly contact the court or the attorneys for Freedom Mortgage.