Bank wants suit over lending practices transferred

CHARLESTON - One of West Virginia's largest banks has asked that a lawsuit brought against it for predatory lending be moved to a federal court. Earlier this month, Huntington National Bank submitted an eight-page notice of removal to have the suit transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. Plaintiff Gary Miller sued the bank, its mortgage group and three other defendants in Kanawha County Circuit Court in December 2011. Miller accused them of "flipping," or using inflated appraisals and other unlawful practices to induce "unsophisticated" consumers into a series of unwise and expensive loans. Flipping maximizes fee income to banks, but strips homeowners of equity in their homes, pushing them into default and, in some cases, foreclosure. Miller contends he was "flipped" repeatedly by Huntington Bank, resulting in indebtedness that, he says, "ballooned" from $120,000 to $273,500 over five years and has brought him to the brink of foreclosure. Kara Cunningham Williams, of Charleston law firm Steptoe and Johnson PLLC, points to Miller's filing of a voluntary petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in June 2010. She argues in the bank's April 20 notice that the Southern District has jurisdiction over the Kanawha Circuit Court action because it is a civil proceeding arising under Title 11. The bank's lawyer also argues that the lawsuit is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Miller is a West Virginia resident. Huntington Bank's main office is in Columbus, Ohio.

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