Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The 8 Biggest Appraiser Liability Cases in the U.S.

I have described below the 8 biggest appraiser liability cases with which I am familiar that are currently pending in the U.S.  These are cases that specifically name appraisers, appraisal firms or appraisal management companies as defendants.  That's an important distinction because the appraisal industry has been fortunate that only a small fraction of litigation about financial losses blamed on appraisal deficiencies actually names any appraisal defendants.  Yet, the stakes below are very significant for the appraisal industry because the realistic measure of damages at issue in just these 8 cases -- not the plaintiffs' puffed-up alleged damages -- is more than what the whole industry paid last year for its professional liability insurance on a collective basis, by a factor of 3 or 4.

The cases below are ranked based on the approximate alleged damages demanded by the plaintiffs or the proposed settlement amount.  The first two cases involve incredible damage claims, but I wouldn't draw any conclusions about those two cases, other than the fact that they show appraisers are very much at risk for big claims made by parties who are neither their clients nor intended users.  The plaintiffs' claims in those two cases are outlandish.

One thing that is remarkable overall about these appraiser litigations is that they continue to be filed long after the peak of the real estate bubble and beginning of the lending crisis in 2006-2007.  Most of the claims in these cases concern appraisals delivered in 2005-2006.  See related article on www.readimember.org (registration is required and limited to appraisers): "What is the Statute of Limitations for a Lawsuit Against an Appraiser in My State?"
  1. $8 billion alleged damages.  Luxury resort development appraisals.  Property owners v. lender and appraisal firm. Filed January 2010.
  2. $2 billion alleged damages.  Luxury resort development appraisal.  Borrower v. lender, appraisal firm and appraiser.  Filed February 2012.
  3. >$250 million alleged damages.  Luxury resort development appraisal.  Hedge fund loan investors v. appraisal firm.  Filed October 2011.
  4. $153 million alleged damages.  219 residential appraisals.  FDIC v. AMC.  Filed May 2011.
  5. $129 million alleged damages.  194 residential appraisals.  FDIC v. AMC.  Filed May 2011.
  6. $75 million pending settlement.  FHA residential appraisals.  Whistleblower appraiser v. lenders, AMC and individual managers.  Filed May 2009, settlement pending.
  7. $48 million alleged damages.  Residential appraisals.  Lender v. mortgage originator and appraisers.  Filed 2010.
  8. $20 million alleged damages.  Industrial property appraisal.  Tenancy-in-common investors v. appraisal firm and appraisers.  Filed 2010.
The NY attorney general's suit filed in 2007 against a national AMC is still pending, but the NY attorney general does not appear to be seeking compensatory damages and is seeking instead statutory penalties or restitution in amounts that have not been specified in public documents.