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State antitrust claims dismissed in buyer broker commission suit

Defendants in the Sitzer/Burnett suit must now only contend with a Sherman Antitrust Act claim

Defendants in the Sitzer/Burnett class action lawsuit, which deals with buyer brokers’ commissions, are facing two fewer claims.

On Monday, plaintiffs in the Sitzer/Burnett suit filed an unopposed motion for dismissal of the state law claims pled in their third amended complaint. Stephen R. Bough, a U.S. District Court Judge in Kansas City, issued a preliminary approval of the dismissal with prejudice on Tuesday.

In their third amended complaint, the plaintiffs set out three counts, a Sherman Antitrust Act violation, a violation of Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and a violation of Missouri Antitrust Law. According to the motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs found the two state claims to be redundant of the Sherman Antitrust Act claim.

So far in the proceedings, the plaintiffs stated that the state law claims pled in Counts II and III are “largely duplicative of claims pled under the Sherman Act in Count I and that rights and interests of the class are best protected and advocated for by dismissing Counts II and III pled by Plaintiffs in their Third Amended Complaint. Each of the three counts arises under the same set of facts, transactions, and occurrences at issue in connection with the Sherman Act claims pled in Count I and involve overlapping damages.”

The plaintiffs added that they filed the motion to dismiss the two counts to “streamline” the trial, which is slated to begin on October 16.

The past few weeks have been eventful for the Sitzer/Burnett lawsuit, as well as the larger Moehrl lawsuit in Illinois, which also deals with buyer-broker commissions. On Monday, RE/MAX became the second defendant to settle the two lawsuits, with Anywhere Real Estate filing a settlement agreement earlier this month.

The only defendants left in the two lawsuits are the National Association of RealtorsHomeServices of America, and Keller Williams.

Initially filed in April 2019, the two lawsuits take 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, while damages in the Moehrl suit are expected to reach up to $40 billion.

“NAR did not oppose plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss the state law clams as they did not pertain to NAR. Regardless, we look forward to presenting our case during trial and remain confident we will ultimately prevail,” Mantill Williams, NAR vice president of communications, wrote in an email. “Pro-competitive, pro-consumer local MLS broker marketplaces ensure equity, efficiency, transparency and market-driven pricing options for home buyers and sellers.”

Keller Williams and HomeServices did not wish to comment on the dismissal.

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