A judge has ordered Wells Fargo to pay a New Mexico family $3.2 million after the bank wrongfully foreclosed on a deceased man’s home despite an insurance policy he bought to pay off the remaining mortgage payments.
James Dollens, a worker at General Mills in Albuquerque, died suddenly four years ago after he fell off a catwalk. Prior to his death, Dollens had purchased an accidental-death mortgage insurance policy from Wells Fargo. At the time of his death, Dollens owed $125,000 on his mortgage.
Immediately, Dollens’ death was reported to both Wells Fargo and the issuer Minnesota Life to make a claim. At that point, Wells Fargo should have attempted to get money from the insurance policy, but they instead sent notices that the mortgage was in default and that the home would be foreclosed on.
“Even though the family and the insurance company had asked Wells Fargo to hold off until the insurance was paid, they completely ignored and went ahead and wrongfully foreclosed,” said Dollens family attorney Katy Duhigg-Kennedy. “Their actions were so bad that it justified a higher award basically to tell them to stop it."
In the end, the judge, who called the bank’s behavior “shocking,” ordered it to pay $3.2 million for damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs, as well as punitive damages worth $2.7 million for James Dollens’ estate. Wells Fargo says that it plans to appeal parts of the decision.