California State Appeals Court Affirms Mortgage Award

A California appeals court affirmed a $150,000 award to an African-American 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 released earlier, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled there was enough evidence to support the jury's conclusion that George and Elizabeth Green were discriminated against by Ranco Santa Margarita Mortgage Company. "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 said.

The couple's attorney, Walter Greene Jr., said this "ends a long and painful ordeal for these very decent people," as reported in the Sept. 2, 1994 Orange County Times.

The Greens sued in 1989 after they were turned down for a loan 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."

Attorneys for the mortgage company said at trial the couple was denied a loan because of poor credit, not because of race. The company appealed, arguing there was not enough evidence to support the jury's finding.

Since they filed suit, 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.

Green said, "It's good to see the system work as well as it did in this case. 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 aw ard 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)]