Appeals Court Upholds Mortgage Bias Decision

A California state appeals court has upheld a $150,000 award to a black couple who sued a South Orange County mortgage broker, alleging they were denied a home loan in Coto de Caza because of their race.

In a unanimous opinion, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled there was ample evidence to support the jury's conclusion that George and Elizabeth Green were discriminated against by the Rancho Santa Margarita Mortgage Co.

"The jury's verdict does not reflect merely the outcome of an artificial game of legal hot potato, but the valid and unrebutted possibility of race discrimination," Justice David G. Sills wrote.

The couple's attorney, Walter Greene Jr., said the ruling "ends a long and painful ordeal for these very decent people," according to September 2, 1994, Orange County Times.

The Greens sued in 1989 after they were turned down for a loan while trying to buy a $440,000 house in Coto de Caza. At the time, the Greens, who are both registered nurses, were living in Compton and earning more than $16,000 a month. Their attorney said the couple was more qualified than some white families who bought homes in the area.

"They were very concerned about safety, and they wanted to move to Coto de Caza," Greene said. "They worked 70 hours a week so they could get their dream home."

During the trial, attorneys for the mortgage company said the couple was denied a loan because of a poor credit history, not because of race. The company appealed, contending there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's findings. The company's attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Since filing their lawsuit, the Greens have bought a more expensive home in the same Coto de Caza neighborhood. Greene said his clients have opened their own medical clinic in South Central Los Angeles and are pleased with the appellate court ruling.

"It's good to see the system work as well as it did in this case," Greene said. "There's no question that the right party won. There was never any doubt in their minds that they were discriminated against."

Interest and attorney's fees could bring the award up to about $300,000, Greene said.

[Green v. Rancho Santa Margarita Mortgage Co., No. G013473, 1994 Cal. App. LEXIS 956 (Cal. App. 8-30-94)]