This is a story that I would like to tell you about a local firefighter that responded to a call in December of 2012. During this call a woman was trapped in her car, while it was on fire, with no way out. The firemen did all that they could, but there was no way of saving her; they watched her burn to death.
This took a toll on all of the firefighters. My son was one of them. He had a hard time dealing with this situation because he knew the woman and, despite all of his training, he could not help her. My son always would have helped anyone that needed help. About two weeks later, on Christmas Eve, my son took his own life before he could get help. Counseling had been offered for the fire fighters, but for Robert, it was too late.
In his passing, I was left with the task of paying for all of the funeral expenses. But first, I called First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union to inform them of his death, because he had his truck loan with them. At that time they told me that all I had to do was provide them with a certificate of death, a few other pieces of paperwork, and the loan would be forgiven.
At that time this meant that I could give my son a full fireman's funeral, which I would have not been able to afford otherwise. We went ahead with the funeral, counting on the money we were going to save by not having to continue on the truck payments, to pay for the services.
One week after the funeral I went to the Credit Union with the paperwork that they said I needed to bring to them. When the bank pulled up his loan they said that they had made a mistake, that the loan now would not be forgiven. I had them pull up the email that the person sent me, who told me the truck payments would be forgiven. They did this and found that I was correct, she had told me that I could keep my son's truck and the remaining payments would be written off.
After spending all this money on the funeral, it put me in a bind, and so I asked the bank to honor their promise to me. They said that they could not do this, so I was left with no choice but to get a lawyer. I was lucky enough to be offered free legal services from a new attorney who had also been friends with my son. This attorney did some legal research and found that my case fell under a legal theory known as “promissory estoppel."
Under promissory estoppel, Pennsylvania courts will enforce a promise made by one party if certain criteria
1. A promise must have been made
2. It was reasonable or foreseeable for the other party to rely on this promise
3. The other party (in reliance of this promise) took action or refrained from taking action and
4. injustice can only be prevented by enforcing the promise.
My case met all the requirements. So, my attorney started writing letters to the attorney representing the Credit Union.
My lawyer requested a transcript of the phone call. It then took about seven weeks for them to get back to us with it. My attorney forwarded information from the funeral home showing proof of the expenses incurred.
After months of back and forth letter writing, the best offer the Credit Union gave to me was to keep the truck and keep paying on it with zero percent interest. I refused this offer, since I was not in a financial position to make expensive monthly truck payments after having relied on their promise to me.
Then, with no notice, on July 14th, 2013 the truck was repossessed. In a way, it was like losing Robert all over again. This truck, to my family, is so much more than just a vehicle. It feels like it is the last tangible thing we have left of Robert. This truck carries so much sentimental value that I feel like it is irreplaceable. I feel like only someone who has lost a loved one could understand the value that this vehicle has to me and my wife.
My lawyer is still working on the case and at no cost to us. But, she is one new attorney with limited experience, up against a large bank that is represented by one of the largest law firms in Eastern Pennsylvania.
I am telling this to you in hope that this story will show the people of the Lehigh Valley what kind of institution First Commonwealth really is. I also hope that after reading this you will help us to get Robert's truck back. A financial institution should not be able to lie to a person, especially in a time of unimaginable grief. They should not be able to do anything that they wish; they should not be above the law.
Please help us. YOU could sign this petition to First Commonwealth expressing your support for my cause and asking them to honor their original promise and to RETURN ROBERT'S TRUCK. Please sign and share this cause. If you wish to contact First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union by letter with the hope of helping us, address any letters to:
First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union
P. O. Box 20450
Lehigh Valley, PA 18002-0450
Also, any additional legal help would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.