A federal judge in Toledo granted class-action status yesterday in a lawsuit that could result in refunds for tens of thousands of Ohio homeowners who may have been overcharged for title insurance.
A lawyer for defendant Fidelity National Title Insurance Co., which is among the nation's largest issuers of policies to protect buyers and lenders from hidden liens and other deed problems, declined to comment on the development.
But in a written opinion issued in U.S. District Court, Judge James Carr said: "The interests of fairness, efficiency, and judicial economy are all best served by a class action. Certification in this case is important because each individual class member's claim may be small, resulting in a diminished incentive to sue to enforce his or her rights."
"We are obviously very pleased," said Mark Koberna, a Cleveland attorney who filed the suit in early 2006 on behalf of Jerry and Dianne Randleman, of Huron County.
In a practice that is the subject of suits nationwide, the Randlemans allege that Fidelity failed to give them and other customers posted discounts on policies issued in mortgage refinancing transactions that took place within 10 years of the original home purchase.
Typical discounts at Fidelity were supposed to be $100 to $250 a customer, the Randlemans' lawyer said previously. If they win their case, up to 94,000 homeowners who bought policies from Fidelity since Feb. 15, 2000, could be affected.
No trial date has been set, but a pre-trail conference is scheduled for Feb. 21.
Members of the class probably will be notified by mail, the attorney said. They are required to do nothing to participate in the case. But if they choose to attempt to file their own separate suits, they must formally "opt out" of the case, he added.
Fidelity Title is part of Fidelity National Financial Inc., a Fortune 500 company based in Jacksonville, Fla.
Contact Gary Pakulski at:
or 419-724-6082.40.80758 -85.41183