Though he agreed with the plaintiffs suing a Michigan bank, a judge dismissed their truth-in-lending case last week, saying they had filed too late.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs in the class action said they would appeal.
At issue was a $250-per-loan fee charged by Bank West of Grand Rapids. The plaintiffs said the $237 million-asset bank misrepresented the fee to make its loans more attractive.
The bank called it a document-preparation fee, but $250 was an "absurdly high" sum to charge for that purpose, the plaintiffs said. They claimed it was really a loan processing fee. These, unlike document-preparation fees, must be included in interest rate calculations.
Kent County Judge Donald A. Johnston agreed. "The plaintiffs have an argument which is hard to beat," he wrote. "The fee is simply an inappropriate one under the Truth-in-Lending Act. Bank officials themselves have suggested that the fee is considerably beyond that limit."
Judge Johnstone wrote that he ruled in the bank's favor only because the one-year statute of limitations in such cases had expired.
Chris Harding, a partner at Drew, Cooper & Anding, the law firm representing the class of more than 500 plaintiffs, said the ruling would be appealed. Mr. Harding declined to give specifics, but sources said the appeal would focus on the judge's interpretation of the statute of limitations.
Ronald A. Van Houten, president and chief executive officer of Bank West, said he agreed with the dismissal but disagreed that the plaintiffs' case had merit. He also predicted the bank would prevail in any appeals.