LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — A Colorado man fought one of the country's largest mortgage bankers after his credit was wrecked, and he won.
After a three-year battle, a Larimer County jury handed down an $800,000 verdict and vindication for Justin Peters, an Adams County business owner and Air National Guardsman, who said he is a stickler for paying bills on time.
"I mean, perfect. I've never had a missed payment," said Peters, who first got a notice in 2020 from American Pacific Mortgage that he had missed his June payment, followed by another notice that he had missed his July payment.
"I called and sent proof that I had paid," Peters said. "They first told me they misapplied the payment. They told me that it got lost in the system. Then, they told me they never received it."
In December 2021, American Pacific Mortgage sent a letter to document the mistake for credit reporting bureaus, blaming a "data error" and stating "the negative reporting should not have occurred."
Still, for months, Peters said, he got the runaround, as his credit score plummeted.
"It felt like a David versus Goliath situation," said Matthew Osborne, a consumer protection attorney who took the case against American Pacific Mortgage. "Behind the scenes, [American Pacific Mortgage] were still telling the credit bureaus to keep reporting him late. And yet, they were telling Justin that they would fix it, but they never did."
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), mortgage banks must report accurate information on consumers, and if the information is disputed, the institutions have a duty to investigate.
Instead, Osborne points to internal records showing third-party investigators spent only a few minutes — or as little as 23 seconds in one instance — looking into Peters' complaints.
Meanwhile, Peters said as he waited, he did not qualify for financing his fiancée's engagement ring, and he was denied a Home Equity Line of Credit he needed for home repairs.
"It affected me a lot. I kind of sometimes forget how much it affected me until I talk about it," said Peters, who recalled getting collections phone calls during his birthday dinner. "It was a dagger to the heart. I guess you could say dagger to the ego."
A Larimer county jury found American Pacific Mortgage negligent under the FCRA, awarding $800,000 for emotional distress — one of the largest verdicts of its kind.
While American Pacific Mortgage has requested a new trial and reduced damages, Peters said the jury knew what it was doing.
"At the end of the day, the amount isn't so much important as just awareness, so other people don't have to go through this," Peters said. "What I've learned is it's very, very common, but what's not as common is people knowing that they have the right to do something about it."
Contact Denver7 received this statement from American Pacific Mortgage:
"American Pacific Mortgage values its customer relationships and takes its credit reporting obligations very seriously. We strongly disagree with the plaintiff’s characterization of the facts and jury findings. However, it is American Pacific Mortgage’s policy not to comment on ongoing litigation. The verdict is still under review by the District Court. Commenting further on the verdict or the amount of the verdict at this time would be premature."