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Vegas jury awards couple $3.4 million for mistaken foreclosure

Posted on Oct 03, 2005

Vegas jury awards couple $3.4 million for mistaken foreclosure ASSOCIATED PRESS Vegas jury awards couple $3.4 million for mistaken foreclosure LAS VEGAS (AP) - A jury awarded $3.4 million in damages to a couple whose North Las Vegas home was mistakenly foreclosed by mortgage giant Countrywide Home Loans Inc. The Clark District Court jury on Friday awarded Gerald and Katrina Thitchener $922,690 in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages. The Thitcheners sued Countrywide after they discovered in April 2003 that the company had mistakenly foreclosed on their condominium and sold it. The foreclosure was supposed to take place at another condo in the complex, but the mistake happened while the couple and their children had temporarily moved to Tucson, Ariz., where Staff Sgt. Gerald Thitchener was serving as an Air National Guard mechanic. Juror Peggy Kaddatz said it was the consensus that Countrywide should be punished severely for not apologizing for trespassing at the home and for mistakenly destroying the couple's property, including everything from photos of their children to the Katrina Thitchener's wedding dress. "For one thing, they never said they were sorry and they said this will never happen again. But it did happen and there were too many red flags," Kaddatz told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In a prepared statement, Countrywide said it would ask for a review and modifications of the award. "We are very disappointed with this result. Countrywide takes responsibility for its actions, including the unfortunate errors that were made in the incident," the company said. "We admitted our mistake and sought a fair and reasonable resolution. However, an expensive award ... is not fair, reasonable or responsible. Clearly, the relevant, factual evidence presented at trial does not support this award," Countrywide added. Countrywide lawyer Cam Ferenbach called the foreclosure an isolated incident that stemmed from "a mistake in the computer system that wasn't changed in time." The Thitcheners said none of their belongings were returned and nobody could tell them where they were taken. Some items, including photographs, were thrown in the trash. "I can't believe it's done," Gerald Thitchener, 36, said after the punitive award was announced. "I'm in shock," his 33-year-old wife added. Thitchener lawyer Terry Coffing hailed the punitive damages award. "I still don't think they (company officials) get it," he said. "Their arrogance has been overwhelming since day one."

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