|KC Man Sues Bank Over Foreclosure Error
Claim: JPMorgan Chase Changed Locks, Seized New Owner's Property
9ABC KMBC | May 15, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City man is taking on banking giant JPMorgan Chase, accusing the company of something that he said would have landed anyone else in handcuffs.
Allan Danforth bought a house in a short sale in fall 2010. JPMorgan Chase held the previous owner's mortgage. Danforth said two months later, without notice, the bank changed the locks and hauled away $25,000 worth of furniture, appliances and family heirlooms.
"I had to bust in through the basement window here," Danforth said, pointing to the house that he was forced to break into more than 18 months ago.
He said JPMorgan Chase's contractor, Safeguard Properties, ignored "No Trespassing" signs on the garage, changed the locks on his home and cleaned it out two months after he paid cash for the property.
"It was basically stuff that was 150 years of family history," Danforth said. "I feel violated and I felt like the house wasn't even safe to go into for a while."
Danforth said Safeguard Properties could find his family heirlooms. He said JPMorgan Chase just gave him a runaround.
"They're the big bank and they don't care," he said.
"It's a wrong built upon wrongs," said attorney Tony Stein.
He said it's a wrongful foreclosure.
"We fully intend to go into court and have a Jackson County jury try to decide the eventual outcome of this case in the only language JPMorgan Chase understands," Stein said. "The language of money."
In his lawsuit, Stein accuses JPMorgan Chase of theft, trespassing and reckless indifference.
Jackson County court records show that on Sept. 9, the previous homeowners transferred the house to Danforth. The bank signed off 12 days later.
"For the very company to release their deed of trust and thereby release all their rights against this property, and then two months later, send in a company to clean this thing out? You'll have to ask them why they'd do something like that," Stein said. "It defies logic."
Danforth and his attorney said the bank has ignored their letters. When KMBC investigated the case, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase had a response.
"We made a paperwork mistake when the property was sold, which resulted in our service partner changing the locks and winterizing the property to ensure its security," the statement said.
The company did not comment how it plans to settle the dispute.
"I'm not the first one. I will not be the last, unfortunately," Danforth said.
He said he has installed a security system in case of another "paperwork mistake."
"If it were you or I doing it, we'd be sitting in jail right now," Danforth said. "Why isn't JPMorgan in jail?"
Safeguard Properties deferred comment to the bank.
Danforth's lawsuit is before the Jackson County Court and claims actual damages in excess of $25,000. Under law, Stein said members of Danforth's family could be entitled to recover as much as $1.5 million in punitive damages.
Danforth's copies of important documents were inside the house and were taken by Safeguard Properties. Experts said in case of a fire or burglary, it's a good idea to have copies of important documents in a digital form or a safety deposit box.