PHH "has taken steps to seek further judicial review of the case and verdict," he said, adding that "we take our responsibilities to borrowers seriously and remain committed to meeting all of our obligations as a servicer."
Philadelphia bankruptcy lawyer Stephen M. Dunne said he considered the award "a wee bit excessive, but the point of punitive damages is to end rampant behavior that fails to go unchecked."
A typical jury award would be $15,000 to $100,000, assuming the borrower could prove fraud on the part of the lender, Dunne said.
Colmar-based bankruptcy lawyer William D. Schroeder Jr. said the size of the award was likely an expression of "the jury's anger" against the system.
One of Linza's lawyers, Jon Lee Oldenburg of the United Law Center in Roseville, Calif., said PHH's "arrogance was something the jury focused on."
Despite improvements in the modification process in the last two years, "servicers botch it up all the time," Schroeder said, citing one client's recent experience of having a modification approved, then withdrawn three months later.
Stephanie Butler, director of housing counseling at Mount Airy USA, said servicers keep changing the rules for mortgage modifications, closing some loopholes and finding other ones.
"A word is missing, a calculation is off, and they make the borrower start over again," Butler said.
Patricia Hasson, president of Clarifi, a credit-counseling agency, said the process has improved but still "has too many nuances" for the typical borrower to navigate.
Schroeder wasn't surprised that PHH will be challenging the award.
"Lenders are not willing to pay hard dollars," he said. "A jury award that requires them writing a check would create a precedent."