A federal judge has thwarted efforts by African-American consumers to proceed with a class-action lawsuit against Option One Mortgage in which the plaintiffs alleged that they were charged higher fees on home loans than white borrowers were.
The decision by Rya Zobel, a U.S. District Court judge in Boston, reverses a decision from March 2011 in which she ruled that the borrowers could sue as a class. The reversal was based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision from June 2011 that decertified a national class of female workers who had sued Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) claiming gender bias, Reuters reported Tuesday. The Supreme Court ruled that since Wal-Mart gave local managers control over promotions and pay then there were no common grounds for making those decisions.
Zobel found that the plaintiffs in the Option One case faced "the same commonality problem as did the Wal-Mart class," she wrote. "Because plaintiffs do not claim that all of Option One's brokers exercised their discretion in the same way, they do not raise a single question common to all plaintiffs in the class."
Option One was formerly owned by H&R Block (HRB) and is now known as Sand Canyon Corp. The suit claimed that Option One and H&R Block Mortgage allowed brokers to charge additional fees not related to a borrower's creditworthiness, Reuters reported.
Plaintiffs' attorneys disagreed with Zobel's latest ruling.
"It's our view that the Wal-Mart decision presents an unreasonably high hurdle for plaintiffs in cases involving private enforcement of civil rights law," said Gary Klein, an attorney for the plaintiffs from Klein Kavanagh Costello. He said that he will confer with his clients before deciding how to proceed with the case.