Real Estate Industry Services
Hahn Loeser has unparalleled bench strength, extensive experience, and proven success handling real estate matters nationwide. Our clients include national title insurers, title agents, escrow companies, developers, real estate brokers, home-warranty companies, property managers, and settlement-service providers. Hahn Loeser attorneys have specialized expertise advising and representing real estate companies with respect to legal matters that arise during residential real estate transactions, including those in the following areas.
Real Estate Class Actions
Hahn Loeser’s litigators have a long and proven track record of success in defending members of the real estate industry in class actions around the country. What separates us from other law firms is our singular ability to apply innovative and resourceful strategic thinking to tackling the complexities involved in class-action litigation. That experience provides real value, and eclipses what many defense-oriented law firms offer: reactionary thinking and a rote disputing of class certification elements. While our attorneys recognize the importance of the class-certification elements, they carefully craft a narrative with a forward-thinking strategic plan that considers the entire case.
Hahn Loeser’s class action litigators have extensive experience in assessing cases, removing putative class actions, managing class certification and merits discovery, briefing class certification and dispositive motions, enforcing arbitration agreements, managing certified classes, addressing and challenging class notice where necessary, moving to decertify existing classes, trying class actions, and appealing and defending class certification and merits decisions.
Extensive Class Action Trial Experience
While other firms may have experience in the procedural issues found in class actions, Hahn Loeser has experience in trying certified class actions both to juries and judges. And, in the past few years, our litigators have tried three real-estate-related class actions and obtained favorable outcomes for our clients. As a testament to our experience, our attorneys have been called on to right the ship in cases where class certification has already been granted.
One of those cases—Krause v. Chicago Title Insurance Company—was a Kansas City, Missouri jury trial in which plaintiffs sought over $211 million in punitive damages. In the Krause matter, our team of attorneys defended a title insurance company that provided escrow services against a class action that alleged the over collection of recording fees related to HUD-1 settlement statements in residential and commercial closings. Hahn Loeser’s litigation team took an aggressive approach by admitting limited liability, but vehemently opposing plaintiffs’ damages analysis and punitive-damages request. After making its case during the plaintiffs’ two-week case-in-chief, the defendant wisely rested and was rewarded with a jury verdict that awarded no punitive damages to plaintiffs.
Hahn Loeser litigators also achieved significant victories in two other class actions that were tried as bench trials in Cook County, Illinois. The two cases involved allegations of kickbacks to attorney agents under Illinois’s version of RESPA. Plaintiffs had sought over $250 million in compensatory damages, which were subject to trebling. After a month-long trial, Hahn Loeser defeated both certified classes.
In California state court, our litigators again defended against a certified class action involving allegations that its client failed to disclose kickbacks related to settlement services. Hahn Loeser successfully eliminated numerous certified claims through motion practice prior to trial and then defended against the remaining claims during a four-week bench trial. The judge issued an order defeating plaintiffs’ claims.
Aggressively Litigating Class Actions Prior to Trial
While Hahn Loeser has proven its ability to defend class actions through trial, we have also consistently and aggressively litigated class actions to obtain early dismissal where possible and to defeat class certification. When appropriate, our attorneys preemptively move to strike class allegations or deny class certification prior to discovery.
Additionally, Hahn Loeser has successfully sought prevailing party attorney fee awards and indemnification from both plaintiffs and co-defendants. For example, after defeating a class action, on behalf of a title insurance company and pursuant to the contractual agreement between the title company and its agent, our attorneys sought to recover the defense costs expended in the underlying class-action litigation. Hahn Loeser obtained a jury verdict and award of attorneys’ fees against the agent for $1.3 million.
Defense of a Range of Real-Estate-Related Class Actions
Hahn Loeser attorneys have defended against class actions in a range of real-estate-related class actions, including:
- Allegations that class members were improperly charged delivery fees in connection with real-estate closings because the title company did not file the fees with the state department of insurance.
- Allegations that borrowers were charged illegal points in connection with mortgage loans.
- Allegations that architects, builders, lenders, and escrow companies failed in their duties related to construction defects and permitting issues with a condominium complex.
- Allegations that title companies charged title insurance rates in violation of federal and state antitrust laws.
- Allegations that title companies improperly paid attorney agents fees for services in violation of state RESPA laws.
- Allegations that title companies that offered escrow services overcollected recording fees and failed to refund the excess fees.
- Allegations that two joint ventures were sham business operations created to funnel illegal kickbacks to their owners.
- Allegations that title companies that offered escrow services improperly charged reconveyance fees.
- Allegations that title and escrow companies made and/or received kickbacks.
- Allegations that title companies and/or escrow companies charged junk fees.
- Allegations that a home-warranty company violated California’s UCL, false advertising law, and other common-law claims in marketing and administering its home-warranty contracts.
- Allegations that a title insurer improperly denied coverage for claims made by purchasers of interests in a new timeshare development.
- Allegations that a mortgage-servicing company violated RESPA.
- Allegations that a property preservation company trespassed and damaged class members’ property.
Major Title and Escrow Claims
Hahn Loeser represents title insurers in major escrow and title claims in federal and state courts throughout the United States. Over the past decade, Hahn Loeser has defended title insurers in multi-million dollar lawsuits involving a wide variety of claims, including:
- Title policy claims;
- Closing protection letter and insured closing letter claims;
- Bad faith claims;
- Escrow malfeasance, negligence, and fraud claims; and
- Vicarious liability and agency liability claims.
Representative matters and results achieved by Hahn Loeser on behalf of title insurers include:
- Obtained favorable result in defense of bad-faith action arising out of title policy claim denial involving an undisclosed easement.
- Successfully defended multi-million dollar closing protection letter claims by dispositive motions and directed verdict during trial, establishing precedent that a lender’s underwriting practices were relevant in evaluating lender’s closing protection letter claim.
- Defended multi-party case involving claims of conspiracy and RICO violations, alleging escrow agents conspired with a developer to fraudulently induce investors into providing secured loans to refurbish properties.
- Hahn Loeser also provides pre-litigation consultation services regarding title and escrow claims. Hahn Loeser furnished a seminar to a major title insurer’s claims counsel on the topic of “Recognizing and Handling Major Escrow Claims.” Moreover, claims counsel have retained Hahn Loeser to re-evaluate title insurers’ legal strategies to improve their positions in settlement or mediation talks.
Hahn Loeser has extensive experience protecting the rights of companies against the wrongful recruiting practices of competitors and the disloyal acts of fiduciary employees. Rival companies often compete by recruiting key employees from their competitors. In an effort to gain an unfair competitive advantage, however, a company may enlist the assistance of a rival’s employee to recruit other employees before leaving the company. This type of recruiting is often improper and exposes the company engaging in the recruiting to liability under various legal theories falling within the larger umbrella of unfair competition. Hahn Loeser has successfully litigated cases involving wrongful recruiting and unfair competition on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants across the United States.
Our attorneys have also evaluated prospective employee restrictive covenants and counseled clients on employee recruiting.
Representative matters and results achieved by Hahn Loeser on behalf of title insurers include:
- Successful recovery of multi-million dollar lost-profits recovery in two cases in Ohio and Arizona involving mass recruitment by competitors and fiduciary employees. Both trial verdicts were named Top 100 Verdicts by The National Law Journal in 2005 and 2006.
- Obtained complete defense verdict in California lawsuit against allegations of title and escrow employees conspiring to leave en masse for a competitor.
General Legal Counsel
Hahn Loeser attorneys have considerable experience helping clients resolve inquiries, investigations, and complaints from regulatory agencies. We are ready and able to offer guidance on how to respond to communications from regulators, such as a state department of insurance or a federal agency, like United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. We are prepared to offer our clients guidance on applicable regulations, conducting an internal investigation related to an inquiry, crafting a response to an inquiry, and helping to manage the scope of the inquiry through negotiation. Additionally, we have counseled clients on compliance with various real-estate-related regulations, such as the affiliated-business-arrangement provision in RESPA, which is now administered by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Michael WhittPartnerFort Myers