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 A growing number of lawyers who initially filed cases for Llano have withdrawn from representation with many cases then being dismissed or put into limbo.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