In accordance with Stewart's obligations under the terms of the Settlement Agreement in the Class Action lawsuit entitled Jason Evans and Sharon Evans, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Stewart Title Guaranty Company, Case Number 04-06630-05 (the "Lawsuit"), Stewart Title Guaranty Company ("Stewart") is hereby reissuing FL2007001.
In July 2004, attorneys for Sharon and Jason Evans ("Plaintiffs") filed the Lawsuit against Stewart in Broward County, Florida, alleging that they were overcharged by a Stewart agent for a loan policy issued in connection with a refinance transaction. Plaintiffs sought certification of their Lawsuit as a statewide class action. Lawsuits making similar allegations have been filed against every major title insurance underwriter in Florida.
In the Lawsuit, Plaintiffs claimed that Stewart and/or its agents failed to charge the Reissue Rate in all circumstances when it was appropriate. As you know, under Rule 69O-186.003, Fla. Admin. Code, in certain circumstances, purchasers of title insurance who produce a prior owner's policy are entitled to be charged the Reissue Rate on their new owner's, lender's or leasehold policy.
Stewart believes that it and its Florida agents have complied with Florida law in connection with the application of the Reissue Rate and denies any liability for the matters alleged in the Lawsuit. Nevertheless, in order to avoid the distractions and uncertainties of continued litigation, Stewart has agreed to settle the Lawsuit filed against it on a class-wide basis, just as other Florida underwriters have done, without admitting any liability with respect thereto. On April 19, 2007, the Court in Broward County gave final approval to a class-wide settlement of the Lawsuit against Stewart. Under that settlement, payments have been made by Stewart to class members who (a) believed they should have been, but were not, charged the Reissue Rate, (b) submitted claims by the deadlines established by the Court, and (c) met all of the criteria in the settlement approved by the Court. The settlement payments made to qualifying class members were 75% of the difference between the amount Stewart received under the Original Rate and the amount it would have received under the Reissue Rate with respect to the qualifying class members' transactions.
In addition, Stewart has agreed, as part of the settlement, to take certain steps to make sure those purchasers of Stewart owner's, lender's and leasehold policies who are eligible to be charged the Reissue Rate are provided with pertinent information with respect thereto.
In particular, please be advised that it is Stewart's policy in Florida that, in transactions in which the Reissue Rate is potentially applicable, agents should always (i) request prior owner's policies from borrowers on refinance transactions, and (ii) inform the borrower that providing a prior owner's policy will permit a discounted title insurance rate, if applicable, as soon as practicable after being retained as the title agent, and in any event no later that the agents' first contact with the consumer paying the title insurance premium or the consumer's representative (i.e., the lender, mortgage broker, realtor, and/or attorney).
Please also be advised that it is Stewart's policy in Florida that, for each transaction where a Reissue Rate might apply, the agent should search Stewart's computerized database of Stewart policies, if available to the agent, for any prior Stewart policies. Stewart recommends that agents also search any other title insurance databases available to the agent that might reveal the existence of a prior policy on the property at issue.
Any Stewart agent that has an inquiry or needs assistance (a) in determining whether Stewart issued an owner's policy to the person or entity, or (b) in obtaining information and/or documents within Stewart's possession, custody, or control required by a person or entity for Reissue Rates may contact:
Stewart Title Guaranty Company
9700 Bissonnet Street
Houston, Texas 77036
(800) 729-1900 ext. 8282
It is Stewart's position that the charging of Reissue Rates is (a) mandatory where the transaction qualifies under the Florida regulations and statutes and (b) likely to be applicable in a majority of all refinancing transactions.
Thank you for your prompt and continuing attention to the matters addressed in this bulletin.
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