Bank Repos Wrong House, Destroys Contents, Then Refuses To Pay Owner's Losses
Rick Unger -Forbes
Katie Barnett, a 36 year old nurse from McArthur, Ohio, made the mistake of taking her family on a two week trip last month, never realizing when they left home that they would return to find the family residence ransacked, emptied and, for good measure, the locks to the doors changed.
A burglary? Or maybe, as the local police theorized, the work of squatters who had taken advantage of the open domicile to have a two-week vacation of their own?
It turns out, the home invasion was far more insidious than either the Barnett family or the local crime sleuths could imagine.
You see, the Barnett family had fallen victim to one of the most dangerous, dreaded and ethically challenged genres of home invaders in the nation—bankerus moronicus piggius.
Apparently, The First National Bank in Wellston, Ohio had set their sights on repossessing a home whose owner had fallen behind on the mortgage payments. That home was located on the Barnett’s street at number 509—a number clearly marked on the mailbox that sits out front of the house. However, when the bank sent Moe, Curley and Larry to take possession and empty out the contents of the foreclosed home, they somehow ended up at a property situated across-the-street and two houses up from the target; a home where the mailbox out in front is clearly marked 514.
That, of course, is the home that belongs to the Barnett clan.
How did this happen?
According to bank president, Tony Thorne, the error was a result of the bank’s representatives (that would be Moe, Curly and Larry) using a faulty GPS to locate the home that was to be repossessed.
Well, that explains it. After all, why would anyone bother to look at the mailbox in front of a home to confirm an address before breaking and entering and then emptying the contents of the residence when you’ve got a GPS?
Of course, had someone with minimally functioning brain cells bothered to actually look at the address, there might be a chance that they would have been tipped off to a potential error by noticing that the Barnett mailbox revealed an even number address—which means that the home must necessarily be on the opposite side of the street of the actual target residence whose address sports an odd number.
But, hey, mistakes will happen—or so says Bank President Thorne in a statement released yesterday.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” he wrote. “The situation was a mistake on the part of our bank.”
Certainly, one would expect that Ms. Barnett has been holed up ever since discussing the invasion of her home with the many attorneys in the area who would love to get their hooks into a juicy case like this, yes?
Nope. It turns out, all Ms. Barnett wanted was $18,000—a sum that included $9,000 worth of car engines and parts along with the loss of furniture, clothing, etc. — which Barnett estimated to be the amount required to replace what the bank had taken or destroyed.
You have to admit that she makes more than a few good points.
Still, Mr. Thorne saw it very differently, writing—
“However, the written list of items that she provided to us – and the value she assigned to those items – is inconsistent with the list and descriptions of items removed that was prepared by the employees who did the work, and with the list and values of missing items provided by the homeowner herself as recorded in an earlier telephone conversation with one of our representatives.” In a meeting with me in my office, I indicated to the homeowner that we wanted to compensate her but would have to look further into the differences in the lists. We heard nothing more from her or otherwise about this situation until being contacted by a local television station, which subsequently broadcast a story that, from our perspective, did not accurately reflect the facts or the good faith actions of the First National Bank to resolve the situation.”
So, apparently, Mr. Thorne believed that the inventory prepared by Moe, Larry and Curly—they being the geniuses who couldn’t figure out that they had broken into the wrong house because they supposedly had use of a faulty GPS which interfered with the precise part of their brains that would think to look at the mailbox to confirm the address—could be trusted to prepare an accurate inventory of what they destroyed or took, despite being incapable of locating a clearly marked address.
Mr. Thorne—who presumably has a fair amount of money under his control given that he is the president of a bank—also appears to have skipped class in bank president’s school the day they were discussing the concept of replacement value as he does not appear to believe that Barnett should be entitled to the same.
But then, Mr. Thorne has arguably also never heard of the potential damages, both compensatory and punitive, his bank could face for negligently breaking and entering into private property and destroying the contents therein— just as he has never heard of what happens to a bank, or any other business, when you allow your present and future customers to know how they will be treated by your business should you, once again, put on so remarkable a display of incompetence. I think it particularly reasonable to point this out when the negligent and incompetent business is one where they are asking customers to park all of their money!
What astounds is that any board of directors would allow this bank president to keep his job after turning down an opportunity to settle out a case involving breaking and entering, and then trashing the contents of the home—and all the result of what can only be described as grossly negligent behavior—for a mere $18,000.00. Were this bank run by someone using some semblance of judgment, he or she would have taken Ms. Barnett’s eighteen thousand dollar request, written her a check for twice that amount and put up a plaque of gratitude on the bank’s wall proclaiming her citizen of the year.
Instead, Thorne is complaining that, since his last interaction with Ms. Burnett, he has not heard from her and would like to resolve the matter fairly.
Too late, Mr. Thorne.
Katie Barnett confirms that she has now hired at attorney. “We are definitely going to bring a lawsuit,” she said. “I gave them a chance and they are not willing to work with me.”
Let’s hope that when this lawsuit is all over, Katie Barnett is the new owner of the First National Bank in Wellston. Maybe she’ll give Tony Thorne the job of being the ‘bank representative’ in charge of locating the banks foreclosed properties and emptying them out. She might even buy him a new GPS.
Then again, given the remarkably poor judgment displayed by Thorne in dealing with Ms. Barnett, he probably would only blow any such assignment even if the GPS was in proper working order.
Beside, if history has taught us anything it is that tone deaf business operators, seemingly without a shred of good judgment, are only cut out for one kind of work—running banks. How else do you explain how bank presidents throughout the world nearly succeeded in completely destroy the world’s economy through their stunningly bad judgement and greed?Maybe the directors of the First National Bank in Wellston have exactly who they want in the position of running their bank after all.