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First American Title case going to the Supreme Court

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A case against First American Title holding a minority interest in title insurance agencies that sell First American title policies will be heard in front of the Supreme Court. The top court agreed this week to hear the case of Denise P. Edwards v. First American Title. In the underlying suit, Edwards moved to obtain class-action certification status against First American Title in her illegal kick-back suit against the title insurer. In her original suit, Edwards claimed First American violated provisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 by buying a minority interest in title agencies and establishing an exclusive agency agreement with those agencies to sell First American's title insurance policies. In the suit, Edwards contended the agreements were exclusive in nature and not in compliance with guidelines established under the anti-kickback provisions of RESPA. At the district and appellate court levels, First American challenged Edwards on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing under RESPA to bring the claim. The lower courts found standing, but the case has now been appealed to the Supreme Court for the top court's review. Lower courts said Edwards could claim statutory standing under RESPA even if all individual plaintiffs were not directly harmed by the allegations of overcharging. The Supreme Court granted certiorari, which means they will hear the case and make their own assessment of the case, establishing national precedent. Write to: Kerri Panchuk.

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