Richard J. Maiale just wants someone to listen to him, so I decided we should do that today, even if we don't have the power, individually or collectively, to help him.

Why did I come to this decision? Because what happened to Maiale could very easily happen to one of us tomorrow or next week or next year or down the road.

Bank of America is the adversary in Maiale's case, but it is just one of the major players in yet another example of what James H. Carr of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition calls a "financial system out of control."

Harry Rizer of Cherry Hill seconded Carr's observation when he recently chronicled his frustrating three-week effort to have Chase correct his monthly escrow payment. (He disputed the amount, customer service would give him a new one, and on and on.)

"At this point," Rizer said, "I would rather be responsible for paying my own property taxes and my own insurance than debate simple math with a company that is either 'too big to fail' or 'too big to succeed.' "

Maiale's situation is much more complex than fouled-up escrow accounting.

A few years back, Maiale bought a condo in Naples, Fla., fully expecting that he and his wife, Lisa, would live there full time when they retired from their floor-covering business in Secane, Delaware County.

A year and a half ago, however, Maiale was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The illness forced him to give up his business, and he could no longer afford to pay the mortgage on the Naples condo.

After three years of payments to the tune of $70,000, the couple have watched their retirement dreams become just another statistic.

Compounding the problem, of course, is the struggling Florida real estate market. A lot of houses are for sale in Naples, mostly foreclosures going at fire-sale prices.

"Bank of America told me to go for short sale, which I did and found a buyer" who offered cash (possibly an investor). The mortgage balance was $275,000, Maiale said; the offer for purchase was $159,000.

Bank of America was not satisfied, though Maiale explained about the cancer and having to give up his flooring business because of it.

Instead, "what they want is for me to sign a $35,000 note for 25 years, which my wife will be responsible for paying, since she is on the mortgage also," he said.

Maiale agreed to the arrangement reluctantly. But Florida law allows Bank of America to go after a borrower for the difference between what is owed and the short-sale purchase price, and the lender has declined to sign a "no-recourse" document that would prevent it from pursuing Lisa Maiale for the difference when the condo goes to settlement.

I e-mailed Bank of America about Maiale's case, but it hasn't responded to this - or to any of my other "What the hey?" inquiries since the first of the year.

Maiale thinks the bank wants to place a lien "on me or my wife after I die. We are fighting to keep up with our day-to-day bills and the ever-increasing medical bills," he said.

"We have spent all my retirement money, borrowed against my life insurance, and "placed second mortgages" on their primary residence.

One of the few things his wife will have after Maiale is gone is about $100,000 in proceeds from the sale of that house, "which I fear Bank of America will come after."

"What is it about Bank of America that there is no compassion whatsoever?" he asked. "I know business is business, but they will come out of the sale of the condo without losing money. They want to bleed my corpse and my wife's life.

"These kinds of actions should be shouted out so that everyone knows," he said - including the government that lent billions of dollars to Bank of America. "They are happening every day, and no one seems to be able to help."

Inquirer real estate writer Alan J. Heavens is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing). His home improvement column appears Fridays in Home & Design. "On the House" appears Sundays in The Inquirer. Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472 or aheavens@phillynews.com.