alternet.org | May 16, 2015
By Matt Reynolds
An elderly man "succumbed to the pressure" of losing his home to Wells Fargo and died at a court hearing fighting the bank's wrongful foreclosure, his estate claims in court.
The administrator of the estate of Larry Delassus sued Wells Fargo, Wachovia Bank, First American Corp. and others in Superior Court, for wrongful death, elder abuse, breach of contract and other charges.
Delassus died at 62 of heart disease after Wells Fargo mistakenly held him liable for his neighbor's property taxes, doubled his mortgage payments, declared his loan in default and sold his Hermosa Beach condominium, according to the complaint.
"Larry Delassus tried everything to save his home," the complaint states. "He told the Bank that they were mistaken; they said no. He contacted the bank seeking information, and was told one thing and then another, and oftentimes, no information at all. He enlisted his friend and neighbor to help him, but the bank refused to recognize him as Larry's representative, despite his numerous applications and appeals. Whatever Larry needed, Wells Fargo created some excuse not to help him.
"At the very end, with his home being sold by the Bank and resold by the purchaser within months for nearly twice what he paid, Larry Delassus, now living in a boarding home, was still fighting for what he and many Americans believe is right by going to court. Wells Fargo, with its virtually unlimited resources, filed a series of procedural motions in its defense, needlessly forcing an ailing Larry to appear in court. Delassus valiantly continued to fight the best he could until his body gave up. On December 19, 2012, as he was sitting in the back of the courtroom, at about the same time the Bank was saying that its actions 'didn't matter,' Larry collapsed, and within minutes, died. Wells Fargo and its agents should be held accountable for their negligent wrongful and malicious actions."
A retired Navy veteran on disability, Delassus suffered from a blood disorder called Budd-Chiari syndrome, and would not have been in court were it not for Wells Fargo's insistence that he appear, the complaint states.
He died within minutes of collapsing in the courtroom.
"This is a case about greed and one man's fight for justice in the face of overwhelming odds," the complaint states.
Blaming Delassus's death on the bank's "haste for an endless stream of profits," the estate claims that he "succumbed to the pressure of fighting Wells Fargo and the heartbreak of losing his home and died after falling gravely ill."
Delassus's estate administrator, Deborah Popovich, says in the complaint that almost one-third of the millions of people who have faced foreclosure since the housing market crashed did so because of "bank errors and banned practices.
"While the instant case represents just one example of many reflecting the results of these bank 'errors' and practices, the consequences in this case are especially tragic," Popovich says.
She says Delassus "lived a quiet and happy life," and always paid his mortgage and property taxes on time. But in early 2009, Wells Fargo falsely claimed he owed $13,361.90 in back taxes when it was actually the owner of a nearby condo that owed the money, Popovich says.
But Wells Fargo, falsely claiming Delassus owed the money, nearly doubled his mortgage payment -- a mistake it could have rectified by verifying his property's tax identification number with the county, the estate says.
Delassus told Wells Fargo he could not afford the higher payments and the bank foreclosed -- even after the county treasurer had confirmed that his property taxes were current and paid, the complaint states.
Popovich seeks restitution, costs, civil penalties and punitive damages for the estate.
She is represented by Anthony Trujillo of Trujillo & Winnick of Hermosa Beach.
Wells Fargo bought Wachovia in late 2008, during the nationwide housing meltdown.
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