Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Untimely Filed Complaints

Frank Kosir, Jr., Esquire
Bebee v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, 2012 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 316 (2012)

This matter addressed the issue of whether the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission had the authority to dismiss a complaint alleging predatory and discriminatory lending practices as untimely filed, where the party against whom the allegations were made failed to file a timely response.  In 2007, Phyllis Bebee (“Bebee”) refinanced a residential mortgage (the “Mortgage”) with First Franklin Financial Corporation (“First Franklin”).  The Mortgage was subsequently assigned on several occasions, and was held at different times by Merrill Lynch First Franklin Mortgage Loan Trust, LaSalle Bank National Association, Bank of America, and U.S. Bank, N.A.  On April 21, 2009, U.S. Bank, N.A. commenced a foreclosure action against Bebee in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas due to her default under the Mortgage. 
Following the filing of the foreclosure complaint, Bebee filed a complaint before the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (the “Commission”) against Bank of America, alleging that she had been the victim of mortgage fraud.  Specifically, Bebee contended that at the time of refinance, her monthly income had been overstated by approximately two hundred percent, and that she had not been advised of the amount her monthly mortgage payment would increase. Bebee also alleged racial and age discrimination.  Bank of America failed to file a timely response, and a judgment was entered against it as to liability.  After a subsequent hearing was held to determine damages, the Commission hearing officer dismissed Bebee’s complaint concluding, inter alia, that it was untimely filed, and that since Bank of America was nothing more than an assignee under the Mortgage, Bebee could not assert claims against it for actions that were allegedly undertaken by the original mortgagee.
On appeal, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed.  In issuing its ruling, the court noted that 43 P.S. § 959 permits the Commission to dismiss any action brought before it at any point prior to the entry of final judgment, if it concludes that the action was untimely filed.  Therefore, as 43 P.S. § 959(j) requires a complaint alleging unlawful discrimination to be filed within one hundred and eighty (180) days of the alleged discriminatory act–and Bebee did not assert her cause of action for more than two years after the alleged predatory and discriminatory conduct had occurred–the Commission was within its rights to dismiss her complaint, despite the fact that Bank of America had failed to file a timely response.

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