DALLAS (CN) – JP Morgan Chase killed a retired minister by giving him a stress-induced heart attack, seized the home days later and wrongfully evicted his widow – all because they accepted the bank’s offer and followed its advice, the man’s wife of 57 years claims in Dallas County Court.
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Harry Engel, of Grand Prairie, died in July 2010. His widow, Wanda Jo Engel, and his adult children, Steve, Debra and Josh Engel, sued the bank, and EMC Mortgage and LPS Field Services on a host of charges, including wrongful death, wrongful foreclosure, trespass, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The family also sued Chase alone for fraud, fraudulent inducement and deceptive trade.
The Engels say they made their mortgage payments for 22 years.
Then in February 2010, they say, Chase sent a letter offering to refinance their home, with a lower monthly payment. They were interested because the husband and wife lived on a fixed income.
At a Chase branch, the family says, Chase employee Michael Paretti “instructed the Engels to ‘miss a payment’ to help them qualify for Chase’s refinance program and obtain a lower mortgage rate and a lower monthly payment.”
The complaint continues: “Trusting Mr. Paretti;s counsel as a Chase representative, the Engels missed a single payment as instructed. After skipping the payment as advised by Mr. Paretti, however, the Engels received a letter from Chase advising them that they were not eligible for a loan modification and that the mortgage had to be brought current immediately; the Engels were distraught, confused and afraid.
“Then, Chase began sending demand letters to the Engels. These demand letters advised the Engels that their home was up for foreclosure, then that the home had been foreclosed upon, then an eviction notice was sent, and finally, a personal representative of Chase physically went to the Engel hom, knocked on the Engels’ door, and enforced the eviction notice.
“After the Engels began receiving Chase’s letters, they made numerous attempts to meet with Chase representative Paretti. On several of those attempts, Debra went with her parents to Chase bank and they waited in the lobby for hours for someone to help them. On one of those occasions, Mr. Paretti eventually met with them and handed them a piece of paper with a figure on it; Mr. Paretti said ‘just pay this amount.’ Harry and Wanda paid the ‘amount,’ but nothing changed and this process – of visits, long waits and empty promises – was repeated several times before the notices of foreclosure and eviction were received.
“Immediately after the Engels receiving the eviction notice, Mr. Engel changed dramatically. He was overcome with stress and fear, and was terrified at the thought of losing his and Wanda’s home of more than 20 years. His once positive outlook was gone.”
On July 1, 2010, “Mr. Engel got up and dressed but the stress of the foreclosure/eviction again overwhelmed him and he collapsed onto a chair,” the complaint states. “Mrs. Engel immediately called 911, but Mr. Engel died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Mr. Engel passed away on July 1, 2010, within days of receiving the eviction notice.”
The Engels say Chase has changed the locks on their home, which remains unoccupied.
Defendant EMC is Chase’s mortgage service and foreclosure company, the complaint states. Defendant LPS is Chase’s national property service company, which now is managing the empty house.
“With regard to Chase, the Engels believed what any reasonable bank customer should believe-complying with a lender’s advice should be safe and should not put them at risk from the lender. In contrast to how a lender should behave, however, Chase and the other defendants’ subsequent conduct proximately caused Mr. Engel’s untimely death and the loss of the Engel home,” the family says.
They add: “Chase made illegal, negligent and fraudulent representations to the Engels so that it could secure a loan modification entitling Chase to benefits and financial incentives that the government was providing lenders to make loan modifications. … Motivated by financial gain, defendants switfly foreclosed on and/or seized the Engel home, wrongfully evicting Wanda Engel, only days after their actions had caused Harry Engel’s death.”
The Engels are represented by Steven Shaver with Shaver & Ash, of Mesquite.