Lawsuit: I Listened To Chase About My Mortgage And Ended Up With No House And A Dead Husband

A Texas widow and her family have filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase and others, alleging that their efforts to refinance their mortgage with the bank only resulted in foreclosure, heartache and her husband’s fatal heart attack.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims that she and her late husband had paid their mortgage dutifully for 22 years when in Feb. 2010 they received a letter from Chase about refinancing their loan at a lower interest rate.

If you’ve read your fair share of these stories, you probably know what comes next.

According to the complaint, an employee at their local Chase bank instructed the couple to miss a payment in order to qualify for the refinancing.

“Trusting [that employee’s] counsel as a Chase representative, the [plaintiffs] missed a single payment as instructed,” reads the lawsuit. “After skipping the payment as advised… the [homeowners] received a letter from Chase advising them that they were not eligible for a loan modification and that the mortgage had to be brought current immediately.”

Soon, the homeowners were allegedly being told their house was at risk for foreclosure, “then that the home had been foreclosed upon, then an eviction notice was sent, and finally, a personal representative of Chase physically went to the… home, knocked on the [the plaintiffs’] door, and enforced the eviction notice.”

The lawsuit states that the homeowners had made several attempts to meet with the original Chase employee who had instructed them to skip the payment. Their daughter alleges that she waited in the lobby with her parents on several occasions, but to no avail.

“On one of those occasions, [the employee] eventually met with them and handed them a piece of paper with a figure on it,” reads the lawsuit. “[He] said ‘just pay this amount.'”

The homeowners say they then paid that amount but that this payment did nothing to stop the foreclosure process.

After receiving an eviction notice, the husband “changed dramatically,” claims the lawsuit. “He was overcome with stress and fear, and was terrified at the thought of losing his and [his wife]’s home of more than 20 years. His once positive outlook was gone.”

Then in July 2010, he collapsed while having a heart attack and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Since then, the bank has taken possession of the house and changed the locks. The lawsuit states that the residence is still unoccupied.

The lawsuit claims that the homeowners only did what any reasonable person would do when given instructions by their mortgage servicer — that “complying with a lender’s advice should be safe and should not put them at risk from the lender.”

“Chase made illegal, negligent and fraudulent representations… so that it could secure a loan modification entitling Chase to benefits and financial incentives that the government was providing lenders to make loan modifications,” alleges the lawsuit.

Among the charges being hurled at Chase are wrongful death, wrongful foreclosure, trespass, gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, fraudulent inducement and deceptive trade.

This tale is all too similar to the story of the California homeowner who was left so distraught after years of fighting Wells Fargo and Wachovia over a possibly fraudulent foreclosure that he eventually committed suicide. Just like in this situation, the homeowners were not trying to get a modification in order to escape foreclosure or get out from an underwater mortgage. Both pairs of homeowners were sold a bill of goods by bank employees, only to end up trapped in the maze that only seems to punish homeowners.

Bank Killed Minister, Evicted Wife, Family Says in Foreclosure Horror []


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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    I hope nobody flames me for this, but after being able to pay your mortgage for 22 years (it was probably a very affordable rate since the house was bought 22 yeras ago), what made you think that skipping mortgage payments was suddenly a good idea, even if the advice came from a bank representative?

    • Hi_Hello says:

      maybe it’s only with mortgage…but most places, if you skip a payment, it gets added to the next month bill and everything is good again.

      I don’t understand how 1 missed payment can lead to losing your home for 22 years.

      • fsnuffer says:

        It can’t. There is more to this story. I have a feeling her husband curled up his toes and she reverse engineered a story to try and pin this on Chase.

        • Thorzdad says:

          Did that huge supposition hurt when you pulled it out? I mean, that’s a lot of pain to go through just to blame the victim.

      • longfeltwant says:

        Whoa, what? Tell me more. If I miss a mortgage payment, what happens? I’ve never missed one so I don’t know.

        • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

          Honestly, nothing beyond a phone call. It’s more like 60-90 days before you even get a letter in most cases, and something like 7% of mortgages are currently at least 30 days overdue.

          • FatLynn says:

            Yup. Most places don’t freak out if you miss *one*, though they may tack on a late fee.

            When my wallet was stolen with my checkbook in it, I had to close out my bank account, which meant that I couldn’t pay that month by ETF, which meant that my payment was technically late. This was National City, and when I called to explain, they acted like f*cking humans.

            • Pre-Existing Condition says:

              I think the biggest issue of missing one payment, is that it creates a situation of being perpetually behind by a month. Even if you make the next payment on time, you’ll be considered two months behind at that point.

              • George4478 says:

                How so?

                If I miss one payment, the next month’s bill will be for 2 payments and a late fee. I pay that and I’m current again. I don’t see how I’m now TWO months behind.

              • sp4rxx says:

                I think your pre-existing condition is your lack of math skills. If you miss one and only one, you remain perpetually behind by 1 each payment …. not 2.


              • Difdi says:

                Huh? If I owe (arbitrary number) per month, and I don’t pay that amount, I still have that money. Next month, I owe that amount again, and miracle of miracles, I have twice that amount available…unless I was a complete moron and spent the skipped month’s payment on something else.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      …because you trust your bank? And if your bank tells you that you can do something to save money, it seems like a good idea?

      • Blueskylaw says:

        I haven’t trusted banks since they took back my
        parents toaster that they gave them in the late 60’s.

        They mumbled something about wishing they knew then what they know now. . .

    • humphrmi says:

      I chalked it up to an elderly couple not fully understanding finances. A refi and a modification are two different things, but I suspect that they didn’t understand the difference and just relied on what the Chase rep. told them.

      • Smiling says:

        Makes me scared shitless to get old. I hope I’m don’t become that gullible and clueless as I age. I pray I am like my crazy great- grandma who would hand your ass to you on a silver platter until she died at 90. She knew how to use a computer as well as any teen or a younger adult too. She was awesome. Cranky as hell, but smart as a whip.

        • humphrmi says:

          Amen, and Alzheimer’s runs in my family… I’ve already told my wife that if I go apeshit stupid, she has my permission to take over. Although we really should put it into writing somehow.

          • Nighthawke says:

            And you should too. Some ambulance chaser catches wind that no Power of Attorney paperwork was filled out, they could easily kick your successors out of house and leave them pennyless.

        • Jane_Gage says:

          You and me both. What do you suppose her secret was? No deep fried food? Doing the crossword every day?

    • TBGBoodler says:

      Morgage rates in 1990 were between 9% and 10%.

      • Smiling says:

        Yes, but at 22 years, most of the interest has been paid, as the majority is paid in the earlier years of the loan. They, most likely, were paying mainly principle at this point. A refi would just add more interest and time and would not save them anything in the long run. A refi in year 10 might have helped, but at 22 years? It’s just the bank trying to tack on more interest to a loan that doesn’t have much time left on it.

        • TBGBoodler says:

          I was just replying to blueskylaw who said a house bought 22 years ago would have a “very affordable” rate.

          I agree this story sounds fishy, but they may have refinanced a few times during that 22 years.

          It wouldn’t surprise me though if the bank simply didn’t record the payment they made to catch up and continued to consider them delinquent.

          • Smiling says:

            Yes, I agree with you that rates weren’t good at all. But, if they never refinanced, there would be no need for them to after 22 years, as they are unlikely to save enough to cover the fees. I just think it’s scammy for a bank to try to get people to refi near the end of the loan life like that.

          • Blueskylaw says:

            Sorry about the confusion, I should have said affordable payment. Before the run-up in housing market prices, even a home with an 8% mortgage rate was affordable.

        • FatLynn says:

          Well, you wouldn’t refi into a 30-year. A 10-year at 6 point saving could make sense, couldn’t it?

          • MysteryWhiteBoy says:

            It would make tremendous sense. I wrote mortgages (not for a depository institution, I am actually state and federally licensed) for a living. Going from a 8% rate on a 10 year to a 3.5% would drop a payment tremendously. And the people would have the option of taking a slightly higher rate and incurring no costs whatsoever, which when dropping from an 8 or a 10% rate would still be tremendous savings.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      They did get the refinancing but over the next year they missed more payments so the bank cancelled the refinancing agreement,

      • hills says:

        This link provides a little more info – most notably that the bank says they didn’t foreclose… something with this story just isn’t right.

    • Taed says:

      You say, “[the mortgage] was probably a very affordable rate since the house was bought 22 yeras ago”. That’s not the case at all — in 1990 (22 years ago), a typical 30 year fixed mortgage was around 10.5%. So hopefully, they’d refinanced since then.

      • MysteryWhiteBoy says:

        You would be amazed how many people haven’t. I talk to several people every day with a rate from 6-10%.

    • Brian says:

      Because to be eligible for many refinancing programs or home help programs under Making Home Affordable (MHA), you have to be behind on your payments. It’s sad, but that’s what the banks are forcing people to do.

  2. deathbecomesme says:

    If the letter they received about refinancing mentioned anything about missing a payment to refinance wouldn’t that be some sort of fraud on the part of Chase. If the letter only mentioned coming in to see what options you had then that is something completely different.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      No it isn’t, since it was still an agent of Chase who told them to miss the payment.

      • deathbecomesme says:

        Good luck proving that in court. What I was trying to say is that the letter would help prove their case. Right now it sounds like a he said/she said case. One person’s word against another

        • scoosdad says:

          I want it to be legal in all 50 states to record without notification to the other party, any phone conversation involving money, contracts, or the sale and payment for goods and services. This crap would stop immediately if these kinds of recordings could be used in a court of law in cases like this.

          Why is it OK for them to routinely record our calls to them “for quality assurance purposes”, yet when we try to do it ourselves it’s illegal or they hang up on us when we give them the required legal notification. (I’m in one of those states requiring notification to both parties.)

          Another part of this ought to be that if they tell you they’re recording the call, they should be required to maintain a copy of the recording for a period of so many years and provide it upon request, should there be a dispute such as this. That way there’s verification that one party didn’t alter the only recording to suit their purposes.

          • cspschofield says:

            IANAL, so for God’s sake check this, BUT;

            I am given to understand that IN SOME STATES where two party notification is the standard the “This call may be recorded” formula has been argued (successfully) to be PERMISSION to record. That is; if they had said “We are recording this call”, then the other party would have been SOL, but by saying “May” they have granted permission.

          • Peggee has pearls and will clutch them when cashiers ask "YOU GOT A WIC CHECK MA'AM?" says:

            Currently I make all important (non-personal) calls through Skype and record through MP3 Voice Recorder. I tell the rep they’re being recorded and then ask whatever my question is. I really don’t know if that’s considered “permission” or not, and I don’t care. If something comes up later and it’s not admissible, whatever. It’s the best I can do at this point.

            I imagine this will be addressed pretty soon. After all, the Homeowner Bill of Rights doesn’t do much good if you aren’t allowed to prove what you were told.

          • Firethorn6 says:

            People proactive enough to record telephone conversations are generally proactive enough to not get into these situations in the first place.

            Though I’m pissed that ‘smartphones’ are fully capable of recording HD Video while making it nearly impossible to record phone conversations short of a special headset.

        • longfeltwant says:

          Yeah. These people need something in writing. If an “agent of the bank” tells you to do something like skip a payment, simply have him write it down on company letterhead and sign it. If he won’t do that, then it’s bad advice.

    • HFC says:

      If it was stated in the letter, then it’s also mail fraud. I’m sure this was verbal instructions.

  3. Hi_Hello says:

    Do banks train their employees to tell people to miss payment or are employees telling people this because they see it working for people?

    • MysteryWhiteBoy says:

      It is illegal for any mortgage lender or servicer to advise a borrower to miss mortgage payments. The problem with banks is that their originators are not required to be licensed (unlike non-depository institutions that lend) so they are ignorant of laws and regulations.

  4. az123 says:

    OK, just me or does something really seem to be missing here… they missed one payment, then were told to pay it… so um pay it and everything is good. Missing a single payment and being late on it will not result in foreclosure, there had to be a whole lot more that went on here than what is listed in this story.

    • valkyrievf2x says:

      It really does. I mean, she only allegedly missed ONE payment, then spiraled from there into foreclosure? Either the banks are REALLY improving on their “fuck you” approach, or she left out a LOT of information.
      Though, if what she says about the rep is true, then I think we all (in single party consent states) should have a voice recorder on at all times when dealing with any kind of company rep, be it bank, large company, services. Seems no one is being held to what they say, and the consumer is the one that ends up paying for it…

  5. galm666 says:

    You gotta wonder at what point does this sort of behavior on the part of the banks turn into violence against them?

    Oh wait, they’re protected by the authorities. Nevermind.

  6. Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

    There is a BIG difference between refinancing to a lower rate and a loan modification.

  7. hills says:

    Isn’t a refi different from a loan modification? Both are mentioned…. Sad story, but I feel like we’re missing valuable info.

  8. NotATool says:

    Bank foreclosed after 1 missed payment? Really? I think there’s more to this story.

  9. bhr says:

    Ok. Lots of thoughts here.

    1. Courthouse News is essentially a tabloid, they post, as fact, any claims in a lawsuit once it is filed.

    2. A refinance and a loan modification are two different things. One is a new loan, the other is an adjustment to an existing loan, and both have very different qualifications.

    3. If you miss one payment at most you have a late fee. If they simply put that missed payment aside and paid it once they were informed it didn’t help they wouldn’t have gone into foreclosure.

    4. I find it very hard to believe that a missed payment in February 2010, especially if they were able to make the regular payments the following months (if not any late charges) would have gotten them an eviction notice in time to cause the husbands heart attack by June.

    In other words, this story is bullshit and Consumerist should do at least a modicum of fact checking on published stories.

    • scoosdad says:

      My bullshit detector lit up as I read this story too. I’ve browsed Courthouse News and it never struck me as a reliable source of information. I went to look that time after Consumerist was bashed in the past for using it as a source that turned out to be incorrect.

    • Smiling says:

      Not to mention that heart attacks are caused by plaque build up over years and years. It can be exacerbated by stress, but the stress did not actually cause the heart attack. An underlying medical condition caused it. Being that they were married for 57 years, he was most likely at least in his mid to late 70’s, which is the average life expectancy for adult men. We aren’t talking about some 40 year-old with a perfect heart here. We are talking about a man near the end of his life expectancy who had enough arterial fat build-up for it to clog his artery enough to cut off most, if not all, of the blood flow to the point of death.

    • wade says:

      AND we have a winner.

      Stories like these are one of the reasons for so much unabashed OP hate on this site. When this tabloid BS is “reported” without question or research, it taints the validity of real, actual consumerist issues posted here.

  10. bhr says:

    Should also point out the OP’s husband was in his 80s, so proving a stress induced heart attack, even if the timing matches up with the eviction, is damn hard.

  11. Smiling says:

    I feel for them with the mortgage story, but if they don’t have it in writing that they are supposed to miss a payment, then it seems to me that they were bound to their original contract.

    While I also feel bad for the loss of her husband, heart attacks are generally caused by plaque build up in the arteries which amasses over a lifetime. Yes, stress can raise your chances of a heart attack, but I can’t imagine that a person with a perfect heart and no blockages would simply diet from a heart attack caused by stress. Unless she can prove that Chase made him spend a lifetime downing bacon cheeseburgers, then it would be hard to prove wrongful death in such a case.

    I just can’t fathom people refinancing when they are at a point where most of the payment goes toward principle, and they are in the home stretch with no problems making payments.They should have just paid it off in those 8 years. They would only have 6 years left, most of it going towards the principle. Refinancing would have added more time on, and more interest, making them pay even more for the house than they already paid.

    • Smiling says:

      *die from a heart attack.

    • MysteryWhiteBoy says:

      Refinancing when you have a rate of 8-10% and 8 years left to a 10 year at 3.5% makes a lot of sense even when adding in extra costs. If they are comfortable paying their monthly payment, find a lender with no prepayment penalties and continuing paying the home off at 3.5%. They would pay the home off even faster. I write several of these types of loans every week and they are beneficial.

  12. eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

    “their efforts to refinance their mortgage with the bank only resulted in […] her husband’s fatal heart attack.”

    Slander lawsuit in 3, 2, 1…

  13. crispyduck13 says:

    This is exactly why I’m holding back on calling my mortgage lender to inquire about refinancing. Sure that 1% looks good on paper, but it’s stories like this that make me say to myself “everything is fine, why do you want to risk fucking it all up?”

    • dolemite says:

      Heh, I’ve been thinking about refinancing too. I’m scared of the hassle and $$ and potential for screwups though. I recently switched my homeowner’s policy to a new company, and that was an ordeal. I got a letter stating they had 2 insurance companies on file for me, and to call them. So I called them, and explained (again). A week later, I got a letter stating they had zero insurance companies on file for me, and they were going to force me to use theirs. I called and explained again. I was told whoever I’d talked to last time didn’t take care of the issue. After about 2 weeks, it was all sorted out. Despite my letting them know all about this before switching companies.

    • MysteryWhiteBoy says:

      Because if you have a rate higher than what is currently available, you’re throwing money away. This was not a case of a refinance gone wrong. What the couple were attempting to do at first was a loan modification, not a refinance. A loan mod allows people with financial troubles to get a temporary reduction in their monthly payment. These people were given poor advice by an unlicensed employee of a bank to try to qualify for a loan modification. They were not in the process of a normal refinance.

  14. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    More details here, but I still confused:
    “They relied on that,” said attorney Chris Ash. “They did exactly what they were instructed to do, missed a payment, followed instructions to the letter.”

    Ash said the Engels paid a lower mortgage for about a year before other letters started arriving in their mailbox, and knocks on the door began.

    The family said the letters said JP Morgan Chase was kicking them out of the refinancing program. Late fees and penalties were adding up.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      Apparently they got the refinancing at a lower rate but because (over the next year) they had a few missed or late payments the bank rescinded the agreement.

  15. dogmaticman says:

    Something funny is going on here as missing one payment doesn’t result in eviction. However if Chase did advise a customer to miss payments intentionally on their mortgage to qualify for a refinance- that’s also kind of shady too. Whenever I go to a bank my guard is up on high because they are always trying to sell you something that isn’t worth it, whether its a new credit card that will ding your score, or somethng- there is no free lunch.

  16. tbax929 says:

    Count me in with the something is missing from this story crowd. There’s no way one missed payment would have set off that chain of events. You pay the missed payment and continue with your life.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      Read other links (& mine above). They got the refinancing but still couldn’t make the lower payments, missed more payments, and were kicked out of the refinancing program.

  17. CrazyEyed says:

    So which is it, a refi or a modification? In the beginning they advise they were calling about a refinance but then they were told they were denied a modification.There is a HUGE difference which would change my opinion entirely. Besides its impossible to get foreclosed off of one missed payment.

    • goodpete says:

      Agreed all the way. No one gets foreclosed after missing one payment. As for refi vs. modification, I think the problem was simply that low level bank employees have no idea what they’re talking about.

      Two programs were created a few years back in response to the housing crisis as part of the “Home Affordable Act.” One of them was for modifications the “Home Affordable Modification Program” (HAMP), the other was for refinancing (HARP). The HAMP got tons of publicity because it was unprecedented. It was designed to modify the principal of a mortgage and targeted at those struggling to make payments (in fact, you generally must be behind on your payments in order to qualify).

      The HARP is a very different program targeted at folks like myself: I bought a home in 2007 with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 6.6%. These days, 6.6% is a pretty miserable rate, but my home had lost 20% of its value, leaving me slightly underwater, so in normal circumstances, unless I could write a big fat check, I’d be SOL in getting a refinance. I had a good job and no trouble making the payments (I could even afford to make higher payments each month). The HARP was designed for this situation and requires that you be up to date on your loan payments.

      When I called in to inquire about taking advantage of the HARP to refinance into a lower rate loan for a shorter term, Bank of America got it wrong every step of the way. I kept getting told I didn’t qualify for a “modification” unless I missed a payment. I also kept getting forward to the “foreclosure prevention office.” Again, I was in no danger of defaulting on my loan. The bottom line is that most of the Bank of America employees I talked to were only familiar with the HAMP and its process. I imagine the same thing happened with this couple. Unfortunately, they weren’t informed enough to do their own research and took the word of the folks at the bank (who mistakenly thought the couple were interested in a loan modification).

      The distinction is subtle (many people might reasonably get the idea that a refinance is a “modification” of your interest rate). But this is just yet more proof that you should always go with your gut on matters of finance. If the advice sounds sketchy (like, “miss a loan payment on purpose!”), you should always make sure to do your own research and probably consult with a financial advisor (preferably a CFA), CPA, or lawyer before proceeding.

      Lawsuits like this are why people get the idea that Americans have no sense of personal responsibility and accountability. Just because you’re not in school anymore doesn’t excuse you from doing your homework. I do blame the bank in this case for mixing up their HARPs and HAMPs, but that should not have been enough to cause this situation to happen. The couple got bad advice and took it without question. They’re at least as much to blame for all this as the bank employee who misinformed them.

      • CrazyEyed says:

        Kind of ironic since I worked at BOA back when HAMP and HARP were created. I was right on the front lines as a CS agent. At the time however, I wasn’t directly responsible for any advisement, only to forward those calls to a different individual(s) who could do a quick phone consultation and crunch of numbers to see if the borrower was eligable. However, in defense of both you and BOA, these programs were so new that they were changing and being modified on a monthly basis. Obama kept rolling out new pieces and changes and employees were simply being piecemealed the individual additions.

        While I agree with nearly everything you’ve said, HARP was designed for those who really couldn’t afford to make additional payments on their mortgage but I found it quite discriminatory in that the programs were taking tax payer dollars to help those who missed payments or those who were on the verge of default; but did nothing to really assist homeowners who were struggling temporarilly. However I will say, those fielding questions on HAMP were more part of the mortgage servicing side while those fielding quetsions for HARP were independent of servicing. If you called about HARP you were transferred strictly to a refinance specialist. If you called mortgage servicing asking for HAMP, they would have done an internal transfer to those trained to go over the qualifications. The servicing employee must have been as dumb as a back of rocks to continue tryign to qualify you for HAMP. There were distinct differences.

        On a similar note, I found it offensive that most of these foreclosure prvention programs inolved a borrower to be 30-60 days in default to “qualify” leaving those in imminent default in limbo until things actually got tough enough for them to painfully miss a payment. It never set right with me. This is where I don’t necessarilly blame the banks entirely because they were following a program and funding from the government who was feeding the instructions and qualificaitons to the banks.

        In other words, I felt that the programs should have been better organized to assess the multitude of variables before being administered. It was a convoluted mess.

  18. herblock says:

    Miss one payment with Bank America and good luck trying to get them to take it. You’re on the foreclosure trail.

  19. SilverBlade2k says:

    I can just imagine the payout if the husband’s death is found to be the fault of the bank..

  20. Wesley says:

    Wait a minute . . . I haven’t paid my mortgage in six months and all that’s happened is a few letters and a few phone calls with my dedicated mortgage refinance agent (or whatever they’re called). And my mortgage is with Chase too. It took three months to get ANYTHING in the mail from Chase about my place being at risk for foreclosure and this guy was dead in only FIVE months? Maybe things happened a lot faster two years ago but why didn’t they escalate to the branch manager or something? Even back then, Chase had a help line for these kinds of things. Sounds like they were paralyzed with fear and timidity. Doesn’t sound to me like they fought very hard.

  21. iesika says:

    You should. Power of Attorney is pretty simple while everyone’s healthy (one to two forms, a trip to the notary, an envelope mailed to court, in most states), and rather more difficult if someone is abruptly not. I had to do it for a friend a few weeks ago when his dad (mid-fifties with no preexisting conditions) had an unexpected stroke. Several companies his son has been trying to deal with won’t accept his Power of Attorney now because his dad’s signature post-stroke doesn’t match his pre-stroke signature, even though everything is notarized and was accepted by the Court.

    If you want someone to have control of your financial and medical decisions should you become incapacitated, you should go ahead and make it official.

  22. Extended-Warranty says:

    “If you’ve read your fair share of these stories, you probably know what comes next.”

    Negligence on the part of the consumer?

    Strike 1 – the [plaintiffs] missed a single payment as instructed

    Strike 2 – the [homeowners] received a letter from Chase advising them that they were not eligible for a loan modification and that the mortgage had to be brought current immediately (I would have reacted to this letter within seconds)

    Strike 3 – wrongful death

    I’m sorry for these turn of events. At what point do the consumers ever have repsonsibility? I mean really, Chase killed the man? What a joke.