When Near East Side real-estate developer Sarni Dickerson decided to fight a foreclosure action on two of her properties in 2006, she had no idea that she still would be in a legal battle nearly eight years later.

When Near East Side real-estate developer Sarni Dickerson decided to fight a foreclosure action on two of her properties in 2006, she had no idea that she still would be in a legal battle nearly eight years later.

Although she ultimately prevailed when a Franklin County jury awarded her $1.1 million in damages in 2012 and the trial judge upheld the verdict last month, she hasn’t seen a dime.

Beneficial Mortgage, which brought the foreclosure action, filed notice last week that it will appeal the verdict and the damages.

“I think they’ve robbed me of many years of my life,” Dickerson said. “I can never get that back.”

Nor does Dickerson, once a high-profile leader in the Near East Side community, think that the jury verdict will salvage her reputation.

“It’s too late for that,” she said.

The fight has left Dickerson, 75, in debt to friends and her four adult children, on whom she continues to depend for financial support, said her attorney, Kevin E. Humphreys.

The two properties — a commercial building at 940-950 E. Broad St. and an apartment building at 69 N. 20th St. — were sold during the foreclosure proceedings.

“Those properties were her retirement,” Humphreys said. “Throughout this case, she has been without her retirement income. She has Social Security, but that was not the retirement she planned for.”

The Cleveland-based attorneys for Beneficial did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

Dickerson’s ordeal began in late 2005 when, according to testimony, Beneficial’s local branch manager asked her to make $23,000 in payments on properties that she argued were not delinquent. She testified that she made the payment but was notified six months later by Beneficial’s corporate office that she faced foreclosure if she didn’t pay $8,003.

Dickerson said she met again with the branch manager and relied on his advice in making that payment as well. Two months later, Beneficial filed the foreclosure action, claiming she owed $25,421.

It took six years for the case to go to trial, with Beneficial continuing to bill Dickerson under account numbers that kept changing.

After the evidence was presented, Beneficial’s attorneys asked Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Daniel T. Hogan to render a verdict in the company’s favor on all of Dickerson’s counterclaims. The judge let some of her claims stand and said that if the jury found Dickerson’s testimony credible, damages were likely.

“Assuming the jury believes everything she has said, and they could do that, then what (Beneficial) did here is unconscionable,” Hogan said. “And when something is unconscionable, there ought to be damages to compensate somebody for the mental anguish that they go through.”

The jury found in Dickerson’s favor on claims of breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation, awarding her nearly $778,000 in economic damages and $1.75 million in non-economic damages. The award was reduced because Ohio law caps non-economic damages at $350,000.

Beneficial, in a motion seeking to overturn the verdict, downplayed its “apparent paperwork sloppiness” and argued that Dickerson failed to support her case with proper documentation.

Iris Cooper, a former banking executive and Ohio Department of Development official, was among those who testified on behalf of Dickerson. She told The Dispatch that Dickerson was the victim of “a systemic problem with nonbanking institutions that rushed to get into the commercial real-estate game without the technological infrastructure to book or track the accounts. Errors are perpetuated and perpetuated.”

Cooper had just started her banking career as a commercial lending officer at State Savings Bank in Columbus in 1984 when community leaders encouraged her to get to know Dickerson.

“She taught me about the business community and the real-estate community and pretty much became a mentor for me,” Cooper said. “She was well respected, especially as a woman and a minority. She had reached a level as a contractor and developer that few women or minorities had achieved.”

Cooper, who served as director of entrepreneurship and small business for the Development Department under Gov. Ted Strickland, said she felt helpless as she watched Dickerson wrestle with the foreclosure case.

“I was ashamed of the financial-services industry. I really was,” she said. “I hated to see someone’s reputation destroyed over a foolish attempt to take their property.”

Most citizens who find themselves in Dickerson’s situation “get rolled over,” Humphreys said. “ Normally, it takes a lot of money to fight. Big financial institutions will grind it out as long as they can.”

Humphreys was so outraged by the case that he said he is willing to represent Dickerson, regardless of her ability to pay, for as long as it takes.

“In this business, you have to decide who you’re going to stand up for and who you’re not,” Humphreys said. “I’m in it to the end.”

Dickerson said she has persevered through “a lot of prayers” and by keeping her children in mind.

“If (banks) can do this to me, they can do it to them.”