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NAR, brokerages say Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs are trying to dodge cross examination

The defendants filed a motion objecting to the plaintiffs’ attempt to withdraw class representatives less than three weeks from the trial start date

Less than three weeks out from the trial start date, plaintiffs in the Sitzer/Burnett buyer broker commission class action lawsuit filed a notice to withdraw three named plaintiffs.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs notified the court in Kansas City that they wish to withdraw Scott Trupiano, Ryan Hendrickson, and Scott Burnett as class representatives. The two-page filing offered no explanation for the decision.

On Thursday, the defendants in the suit, which now consist of only the National Association of Realtors, Keller Williams and HomeServices of America after both Anywhere and RE/MAX filed settlement agreements, filed a motion objecting to the purported withdrawal of the named plaintiffs of the eve of the trial.

The defendants claim that the plaintiffs are looking to dodge cross examination.

“The sudden decision on the eve of trial to withdraw three class representatives raises questions about whether the withdrawal was designed to avoid testimony that could conflict with other class representatives, raising questions about the merits and/or the propriety of the class,” the defense motion states.

Initially filed in April 2019, the lawsuit takes aim at NAR’s Participation Rule, which requires listing agents to make a blanket offer of compensation to buyers’ agents in order to list the property on a Realtor-affiliated multiple listing service (MLS). According to the plaintiffs, commission sharing inflates the costs for consumers, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. NAR contends that the current commission structure, which has been in place for over 100 years, actually helps consumers.

Damages in the Sitzer/Burnett suit are anticipated to be up to $4 billion. The trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 16. Keller Williams, NAR, and HomeServices of America did not wish to comment on the suit, while attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return a request for comment.

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