Edwards v. First American Financial Corp.

Case FAQs


If I received a Notice in the mail, what was the purpose of it?

If you received a Notice in the mail, it was because information indicates that you may have entered into a residential real estate transaction between June 12, 2006 and November 9, 2006 that involved the services of a Tower City Title Agency, LLC, (“Tower City”) and that you paid for or were charged a title insurance premium for title insurance issued by First American Title Insurance Co. (“FATIC”), and you may be a member of the class on whose behalf this lawsuit was filed.  

What is a class action?

A class action is a lawsuit in which one or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on behalf of absent class members where: (a) the class is so numerous that it would be impracticable for all parties to be joined; (b) there are questions of law or fact common to the class; (c) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and (d) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the absent class members.

Who is involved in this class action?

The Plaintiff’s Class representative is Denise P. Edwards (“Named Plaintiff”).  Named Plaintiff has sued Defendants First American and its parent company First American Financial Corporation (together, “Defendants”).

What does it mean to be the “Named Plaintiff”?

The Named Plaintiff is the Class representative, a person identified in the Complaint as the plaintiff, who the Court has determined is legally adequate to represent the interests of the absent Class members.

Why is this lawsuit a class action?

This lawsuit is a class action because the Court has decided that it meets the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, which governs class actions in the federal courts. Specifically, the Court found that there are believed to be hundreds of individuals who used the services of Tower City and who purchased or paid for, in a transaction that included a mortgage loan, title insurance policies issued by First American between June 12, 2006 and November 9, 2006; it is impracticable to join all of these individuals as plaintiffs; questions of law and fact are common to the class members; the claims of the Named Plaintiff are typical of the Class; and the Court has concluded that the Named Plaintiff is able to fairly and adequately protect the interests of the Class.


Who are the “Class members” that the Named Plaintiff represents?

If between June 12, 2006 and November 9, 2006, you purchased or paid for title insurance in a transaction that included a mortgage loan using the services of Tower City in which the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, or other document in your loan file, includes a charge or payment for title insurance issued by First American, you are a potential Class member (unless you currently or have ever been an executive of the Defendant).

If the mortgage loan issued in connection with your real estate transaction was issued primarily for business, commercial, or agricultural purposes, as opposed to primarily for a residential purpose, then you should contact Class Counsel.


What does this lawsuit complain about?

The Named Plaintiff claims in this lawsuit that the Defendants violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”), 12 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq., by paying the owners of Tower City $2 million for an ownership interest in Tower City that included an agreement to refer title insurance business exclusively to FATIC.  Specifically, the Named Plaintiff claims that this scheme violated RESPA’s ban on giving or receiving “any fee, kickback, or thing of value” in return for referrals of title insurance business in a mortgage loan transaction.  The Complaint alleges the Defendants engaged in this scheme to increase the title insurance premiums they collected and to expand their share of the title insurance market in a way and manner that violates federal law.

What is the Plaintiff asking for and who represents the Plaintiff?

The Named Plaintiff is asking the Court to award her, and all Class members, three times the amount of any and all payments for title insurance to Tower City (class members' title agent) in mortgage loan transactions, as well as other relief allowed by RESPA.  The Named Plaintiff and the Class are represented by the Court-approved law firms of Gordon & Wolf, CHTD; Zuckerman Spaeder LLP; Spertus Landes & Umhofer; and the Fair Housing Law Clinic. 

How do Defendants respond to the complaint and who represents them?

Defendants counter that the $2 million payment to Tower City was solely to purchase an ownership interest in Tower City and was not a “fee, kickback or thing of value” in exchange for referrals of title insurance business.  Defendants deny all of Plaintiff’s allegations, deny they violated RESPA or otherwise acted improperly, deny Plaintiff or the Class are entitled to the requested relief, and believe they have numerous other valid defenses.  Defendants also believe that the damages recoverable by Plaintiff and the Class are limited to the 15% of the policy premium that First American was to receive from Tower City.  Defendants are represented by the law firms of SNR Denton US LLP and Miller Shakman & Beem LLP. 

Has the Court decided who is right?

No.  The Court has not yet decided who is right or wrong in the lawsuit.  By establishing the Class and ordering this notice to be issued, the Court is not suggesting that the Plaintiff will win or lose this case.  The lawyers for Plaintiff and the Class must prove the claims at trial.

Is there any money available now?

No.  There is no guarantee that money or benefits ever will be obtained.


What does it mean for this case to proceed as a class action?

The Court has decided this lawsuit can be a class action and move toward a trial because it meets the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedures 23, which governs class actions in federal court.  This ruling means that all decisions by the Court, whether favorable to the Named Plaintiff and Class or to the Defendants, will apply in like manner to every Class member who does not timely elect to be excluded from the Class (although the damages recoverable by each Class member may vary).


Will Class members' rights be affected by this lawsuit?

As described in this website and in the Class Notice, your rights may be affected by this lawsuit. Everyone who is a potential Class member may have rights that are affected by this lawsuit. If you are within the Class defined in the Answer to "Who is in this class?", you have a choice to remain a member of the Class on whose behalf this suit is being maintained, or to elect to exclude yourself from this class action.  Either choice will have its consequences, which you should understand before making your decision.


How do I become a part of this class action?

If you have already been identified as a Class member and want to remain part of this class action, you are NOT required to do anything at this time.  By doing nothing, you remain a member of the Class.  If you believe that you are a Class member but have not received Notice, please contact Class Counsel.

What can I expect if I am part of this class action?

If you remain a member of this class action, you will not be able to sue, or continue to sue, the Defendants as part of any other lawsuit about the same legal claims that are the subject of this lawsuit, regardless of whether or not the Plaintiff wins or loses at trial. You also will be legally bound by all the Orders the Court issues and judgments the Court makes in this class action.  If any money or other benefits are obtained at trial or through a proposed settlement, you will be notified.  You may have other rights and obligations as a Class member, which are described in the section called Class Members’ Rights and Obligations.

If I am currently a Class member, how do I exclude myself from this class action?

If you do not want to participate in this case and, as a result, want to exclude yourself from the class action, you must submit a Request for Exclusion no later than May 12, 2013.  A Request for Exclusion form may be downloaded here.  If you do not want to participate in this case, include in your request for exclusion (either in the Request for Exclusion form obtained from this website or in your own letter):

(a) your full name and current address, 
(b) the address of the property for the mortgage loan transaction at issue,
(c) the approximate closing date of the transaction, and 
(d) a sentence stating: “The undersigned hereby requests exclusion from the Class in Edwards v. First American Financial Corporation, et al., Case No. CV 07-03796 SJO in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.”  

In addition, the class member requesting exclusion should sign the Request for Exclusion (or your own letter) and mail it to:

Edwards v. First American Notice Administrator 
c/o Strategic Claims Services
P.O. Box 230
Media, PA 19063

***The Request must be postmarked no later than May 12, 2013. 

What will it mean if I am not a part of this class action?

If you exclude yourself from this class action:

(a) You will NOT share in any recovery that might be paid to Class members as a result of trial or settlement of this lawsuit; 
(b) You will not be bound by any decision in this lawsuit favorable to the Defendants; and
(c) You may present any claims you have against the Defendants by filing your own lawsuit, or you may seek to intervene in this lawsuit.


Who will represent me if I am part of this class action?

If you remain a member of the Class, the Named Plaintiff and Class Counsel (both of whom were approved by the Court), will act as your representatives and attorneys in this lawsuit.  

Can I hire my own attorney?

If you desire, you may appear in this lawsuit by your own attorney, but if you do so, you will be responsible to pay any fees for that attorney.  Similarly, you may seek the advice and guidance of your own attorney, but, again, you are responsible for your own attorneys’ fees in doing so. You also may seek to intervene individually and may advise the Court if at any time you believe you are not being fairly and adequately represented by the Named Plaintiff and Class Counsel.  

If I am a Class member, do I have to do anything to share in a recovery?

Your participation in any recovery that may be obtained from the Defendants through trial or settlement will depend on the results of the lawsuit.  If no recovery is obtained, you will be bound by that result.  In addition, you may be required, as a condition for participating in any recovery, to present evidence of your transaction with First American and Tower City.  As a result, you should preserve all documentation related to the transaction until further notice.

What should I do if my name or address changes?

If your name or address changes, please let us know right away.  You will be entitled to appropriate notice of any ruling reducing the size of the Class, as well as notice of and an opportunity to be heard respecting any proposed settlement or dismissal of the Class claims. For these reasons, as well as to participate in any recovery, please notify the Notice Administrator at the address provided in the Class Members' Options section of any corrections or changes in your name or address.  

Is there a way to review the court filings in the case?

The pleadings and other records in this litigation may be examined and copied at any time on the Court’s Electronic Case Filing website https://ecf.cacd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/ShowIndex.pl, or during regular hours at the office of the Clerk:

United States District Court
for the Central District of California
312 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, California 90012


How can I stay informed of the status of the lawsuit? 

You can review the status of the case by consulting this website(www.towercityclassaction.com), where information will be posted from time to time.




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