An Easton man and the bank that was foreclosing on his home reached a settlement in a dispute that arose when the man alleged his belongings were stolen by workers sent to secure the property.
John Barber sued Wells Fargo, alleging “his home had been broken into, the locks changed, the premises ransacked, and a large quantity of personal property belonging to him was missing.”
He told me there was no reason to secure the premises because he still was living there at the time of the alleged theft in April 2014 and was preparing to sell the home at a short sale, which the bank had approved. The missing items included a coin collection and an antique firearm, according to the lawsuit.
A Northampton County judge was scheduled to hear the case in May, but it was marked as “settled” on May 10, according to the online court docket.
Barber’s attorney, Robert Glazer, told me the matter was “resolved before trial” and that he couldn’t comment further.
Wells Fargo spokesman James Baum said the terms of the settlement are confidential.
The settlement occurred several weeks after Judge Michael Koury denied Wells Fargo’s request to dismiss the case prior to trial through a process known as summary judgment.
The bank argued in court papers that it couldn’t be held “vicariously liable” for the acts of independent contractors. It said the property preservation contractor the bank hired subcontracted the work at Barber’s home to another firm that the bank had “absolutely no relationship” with.
Wells Fargo argued it did not violate the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act, a state law that governs debt collections, as Barber’s lawsuit alleged. In court records, the bank said it was entitled under its mortgage contract with Barber “to take reasonable action to secure and maintain the property” if payments weren’t made.
“It also cannot be disputed that Wells Fargo maintained an interest in the property as the mortgage holder or that the vacancy during this time period could have caused damage or waste to the property,” Wells Fargo’s attorney, Paul Lees, wrote in the court filing. “By virtue of these facts, Wells Fargo was entitled to engage its independent contractor … to commence property maintenance services on the property at issue in order to protect its interest.”
Barber disputed those arguments in court papers filed in response to the bank’s request to dismiss the case. He contended there were enough questions for the case to be heard.
He did not sue the companies involved with securing his property. The only defendant was Wells Fargo, which the suit alleged failed to "properly supervise and monitor" the contractor's and subcontractor's activities. Easton police investigated Barber's complaint and closed the case without filing charges because leads were exhausted.