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Judge denies Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs’ motion for entry of judgement

Judge rules that judgement of HomeServices defendants is not warranted at this time

The judge overseeing the Sitzer/Burnett commission lawsuit will not issue a final ruling on the HomeServices of America defendants just quite yet. In a filing on Monday, Judge Stephen Bough denied the plaintiffs’ motion for entry of judgement without prejudice, meaning that the plaintiffs could file another motion for entry of judgement in the future.

In their motion filed in mid-March, the plaintiffs asked the court to order HomeServices to pay $4.7 billion in damages this fall. The plaintiffs arrives that this figure by tripling the $1.78 billion in damages awarded by a jury in late October 2023, which is allowed in federal antitrust suits and then subtracting the $626.5 million in funds that resulted from the settlement agreements reached by AnywhereRE/MAXKeller Williams and the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The plaintiffs were also seeking award of attorneys’ fees, other costs of the suit and interest on the damages. Interest would start accruing retroactively on the day after the verdict (Nov. 1, 2023) at the rate of 5.4% per year, compounded annually.

“The jury found that all Defendants ‘knowingly and voluntarily joined the conspiracy,’” the plaintiffs wrote in their motion. “Defendants who are found to conspire are jointly and severally liable for all damages flowing from the conspiracy.”

HomeServices filed its reply to the motion in early April, asking Bough to deny the plaintiffs’ motion. The national brokerage firm called the plaintiffs’ motion premature, noting that the court has yet to approve the four other settlement agreements reached by the other defendants in the lawsuit. The firm also argued that if these settlements are rejected or challenged, the math for the final judgement amount would change, and that it does not expect the approve process for the settlement agreements to be smooth.

Additionally, HomeServices also noted that the law requires the plaintiffs to “demonstrate a danger of hardship if its request is not granted,” which HomeServices says they failed to do.

Ultimately, it was this argument that won Judge Bough over.

“Plaintiffs fail to argue that some danger or hardship would exist if an appeal were delayed that an immediate appeal would alleviate. As the HomeServices Defendants point out, ‘Plaintiffs do not indicate that they themselves contemplate appealing any of the Court’s rulings.’ Further, Plaintiffs do not assert a danger or hardship other than the settlement monies will not be available to Plaintiffs for a few months more,” Bough wrote. “Given that this Court should seek to prevent piecemeal appeals and any appeal related to the settlements would relate to the judgment against the HomeServices Defendants, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have failed to show that certification of the judgment against the HomeServices Defendants is warranted at this time.”

In an email, Chris Kelly, an executive vice president at HomeServices wrote that the company is pleased by the court’s decision.

“There are several outstanding issues yet to be resolved, including our post-trial motion for a judgment as a matter of law and our motion for a new trial,” Kelly added. “Additionally, the court acknowledged that the pending settlements have not received final approval, and objections to these settlements must still be addressed. These factors significantly influence any final judgment, and it is essential that they are resolved.“

The settlement agreements reached by Anywhere, RE/MAX and Keller Williams have a final approval hearing on May 9, 2024, while NAR’s settlement agreement is still awaiting preliminary approval.

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