Kelly Holleran Jun. 11, 2013, 7:00am

The owners of a Red Bud grocery business seek more than $1 million after they claim the bank that foreclosed on their property wrongly prohibited them from collecting personal property within the premises before selling it.

Kevin Miller, Pamela Miller, Wayne Miller and Elsie Miller filed a lawsuit May 21 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against First Bank.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs, who ran a grocery and meat business, claim they were not allowed to recover their personal property from their store before First Bank sold it in a public auction on July 11, 2011. The property had been locked in the store for more than two years, according to the complaint.

In addition, the plaintiffs say the bank should not have been allowed to foreclose on their property when it did. Although it had obtained a judgment to foreclose on the premises on Dec. 11, 2009, the bank waited more than two years to do so, the suit states.

By the time First Bank sold the property, it was worth more than what the Millers owed to the bank, the complaint says. The Millers claim they could have sold the property in a private sale for a positive cash recovery.

“The private sale of the premises to proferred potential buyers tendered by the plaintiffs would have reduced the costs, interest, attorneys fees and other expenses resulting from the two year delay in selling the premises, including the costs of public sale of the premises,” the suit states.

The Millers say First Bank breached its contract by prohibiting access to the personal property inside the premises, which the bank did not have authority to do.

Because of the bank’s actions, the Millers have been humiliated in their community, have experienced difficulty obtaining credit and have lost profits and income, according to the complaint.

In their two-count complaint, the Millers seek a judgment of $1 million, actual damages of $1 million and punitive damages of $1 million, plus costs.

George R. Ripplinger of Ripplinger and Zimmer in Belleville will be representing them.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-263.

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