HomeServices faces possible damages of $4.7B in Sitzer/Burnett suit

As the final defendant left in the Sitzer/Burnett commission lawsuit, it appears that HomeServices of America may be left holding the bag for the vast majority of the damages in the case.

On Monday, the plaintiffs filed a motion for entry of judgment in a Kansas City district court. In their motion, the plaintiffs asked the court to order HomeServices to pay $4.7 billion in damages this fall.

The figure is the result of the plaintiffs asking Judge Stephen Bough, who oversaw the suit, to triple the $1.78 billion in damages awarded by a jury in late October 2023. The plaintiffs then subtracted the $626.5 million in funds that resulted from the settlement agreements reached by Anywhere, RE/MAX, Keller Williams and the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

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

In addition to the damages, the plaintiffs are also seeking an 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.

While a final ruling on at least some of the settlement agreements is not expected until early May, the plaintiffs said that this is no reason to delay the final judgment on the HomeServices defendants.

“Damages from an anti-trust verdict are trebled as a matter of law and the motion filed by the plaintiffs yesterday, while premature was expected,” Chris Kelly, an executive vice president at HomeServices, wrote in an email. “HomeServices continues to aggressively pursue all options to resolve our involvement in the outstanding litigation.” 

Although the plaintiffs may want a final judgment sooner rather than later, complicating the matter is a writ of certiorari that HomeServices filed in February. In its filing, HomeServices petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and asked for a review of an August 2023 ruling by the Eight Circuit Court, which found that HomeServices could not enforce arbitration agreements signed by seller clients of its franchisees. The appeals court said that this was because the contracts signed by the sellers were not directly signed by HomeServices.

HomeServices’ parent company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company, was recently named as a defendant in the Gibson commission lawsuit. The firm still has the option to settle the suit if it so chooses.

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