And the house came a tumbling down…

Thursday, February 18, 2016

An update on Llano’s lawsuits against appraisers

By Brian L. Trotier, JD, EVP & COO, Foundation of Real Estate Associates (FREA)

Most of you already know the background on Llano and its wave of appraiser litigation so we won’t spend a lot of time repeating past details here. Let’s just say that karma appears to be alive and well in 2016. For those of you who are not aware of what Llano has been doing, we’d recommend you go to www.frea.com and search past blog posts for information on Heritage Pacific, Savant Claims Management, Llano, and the Ganter brothers. It won’t take time for you to get up to speed.

Here are some of the latest developments relating to Llano:

1.      A growing number of lawyers who initially filed cases for Llano have withdrawn from representation with many cases then being dismissed or put into limbo.

2.      An attorney representing Llano sent a cease and desist letter to us demanding that we stop reporting on the Llano litigation and alleging our reports are not factually correct. This is a blatant attempt to stifle our 1st Amendment rights and will not work. 

3.      In one somewhat unique case, an appraiser sued by Llano filed a counterclaim (with the support of his E&O carrier) asking the court to order Llano to pay all of the fees and costs incurred in defending the lawsuit in the first place. If he wins this request, the tides will shift dramatically.

4.      We remain unaware of any cases decided on the merits going in favor of Llano and thus far almost every one of the carriers involved in defending these cases is not settling. If anyone reading this knows of a case that Llano or any of the other entities related to the Ganters either took to trial and won or won on a motion on the merits, please let us know.

5.      We have been in contact with the general counsel for Impac Mortgage Holdings, the company that allegedly assigned the right to file these lawsuits to an entity related to the Ganters that in turn assigned the rights to Llano. Not surprisingly, it appears Impac may have had no idea who they were getting in bed with.

6.      Finally, some recent decisions handed down by several different courts seem to indicate the courts believed the cases in question were without merit from the outset and never should have been filed. We believe the correct legal term for cases like these is “frivolous”.

7.      We also learned one attorney representing Llano had been suspended from practicing law for 3 years for fraudulently signing documents that were submitted to the court and then lying about it when first asked.

8.      Last, but not least, the word on the street is that one of the Ganter brothers had to file personal bankruptcy recently and claimed to be so broke that he wanted permission to pay his filing fees in installments. A quick review of court records reveals that this is not the first bankruptcy filing for the brothers and/or companies they own or control.

In spite of all of this good news, as recently as last month, Llano was still filing lawsuits in new states like California. Now is the time to stay aware and alert. Until Llano pulls the plug and disappears the battle is not won. By working together on behalf of the entire appraisal profession, we can win this and put an end to vulture lawsuits like these. Remember, if you are involved in a Llano case (whether you have insurance coverage or not) have your attorney send an email to briant@frea.com so we can pass along what we know that might help either reduce the cost or improve the odds of winning your case or both. 

Author: Brian L. Trotier, JD, is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of FREA and a former practicing attorney with more than 30 years experience in real estate and risk management.

Comments

Good work Brian,
Keep at it! I am now a member of RICS. I couldn't afford ASA's exorbitant dues (actually I was a member of both for a while as long as the money lasted). If you would like to address a RICS CPD meeting on the subject of professional liability and what can be done to safeguard against it let me know. no sales pitches please but business cards would be welcome. :=)

Mr. Trotier, I am writing to request permission to reprint this article in it's entirety in www.Appraisersblogs.com (as my own quoted submission of an article for reprint purposes only; with the authors permission and attribution. I don't want the blog hosts to incur any potential liability from anyone if they reprinted it on their own volition. While you and I have not always seen eye to eye, THIS is something that I believe we DO agree on, and something that I believe our members; and my own 'followers' should be aware of.
Particularly in California.

Please let me now at your convenience. My personal email is mike@mfford.com
Mike Ford, VP/Chairman National Appraisal Peer Review Committee, American Guild of Appraisers, #44 OPEIU/AFL-CIO

I represent the Defendant in a Llano case filed in Miami-Dade County, Florida:

CASE NO.: 2015-15741 CA 01

LLANO FINANCING GROUP LLC,
vs.
ARMANDO DE ZAYAS, an individual;
and SOUTH FLORIDA CERTIFIED APPRAISERS,
INC.,

Please put me on your mailing list. Thank you for all the information that you've provided for the defense of that matter.

Best regards,
Ernie de la Fe, Esq.

So, I am out $5,000 (deductible) and there is zero merit to the lawsuit. They claim to have had my report reviewed and found deficient, but I have been unable to get a copy of the alleged review. Is there any possibility of those of us who have had to pay to respond to these "frivolous" actions to band together to seek damages and/or reimbursement?

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