A lawsuit alleging that Ohio Savings Bank charged hidden interest rates to mortgage customers has been sent back to trial by the Ohio Supreme Court.
The suit, which has been wending its way through the courts for nearly to years, alleges that the now $2.2 billionasset savings bank charged hidden interest to customers during the 1970s and early 1980s.
Ohio Savings denies the allegations and maintains that it was merely trying to compensate for mistakenly undercharging borrowers.
The lawsuit was originally filed in 1985 on behalf of three borrowers who took out mortgages from Ohio Savings in 1976 and 1977. The borrowers alleged that the-stated interest rate on their loans was less than what was actually Charged and paid.
Ohio Savings executives said the bank did not misrepresent interest rates, but that clerical errors resulted in too-low monthly payments for borrowers.
When the errors were discovered. "we offered them the option to increase their payments or extend the terms of the loans," said Marc Freimuth, senior vice president and general counsel for the bank. "The key issue here is, the people here had never been hurt," added David Goldberg, executive vice president. Robert E. Sweeney, a lawyer for the borrowers, rejected the bank's claims of innocent errors. "That is so far from the truth," he said.
The case is filed as a class action, though it is not yet certified, Mr. Sweeney said.
Bank executives insisted that the case is not a class action.
In its decision, the Ohio Supreme Court said that the trial court must determine when the borrowers reasonably could have discovered the errors and whether they filed action within one year from that date, as required by Truth-in-Lending laws. Truth-in-Lending requires banks to disclose key terms in extensions of credit.
The decision also stated that the prior summary judgment was inappropriate because records are inconsistent on what was disclosed to whom.
The case first received a summary judgment for dismissal in 1988, but the Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth Appellate, sent the case back to the lower court.
In January 1991 the judge again dismissed the suit, and an appeals court upheld the dismissal in September 1992.
The state's supreme court heard arguments this April.