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Nine Commission Lawsuits Look To Consolidate In Missouri Under Sitzer/Burnett Judge

A bevy of copycat commission lawsuit plaintiffs are looking to consolidate their nine suits in Missouri under Judge Stephen Bough, who over saw the Sitzer/Burnett commission lawsuit trial in October 2023.

In a filing dated Dec. 27, 2023, the plaintiffs in the Gibson and Umpa suits, the oldest and the newest of the copycat suits, which were both filed in Missouri, ask the court if their suits, along with seven other copycat commission lawsuits can consolidate. The suits the plaintiffs are looking to consolidate are Gibson, Umpa, Grace (filed in California), Burton, (filed in South Carolina), March (filed in New York), Spring Way (filed in Pennsylvania), Phillips (filed in Georgia), QJ Team (filed in Texas), and Martin (filed in Texas).

The plaintiffs argue that the nine suits are ripe for consolidation and transfer because they most of their defendants overlap, involve many of the same questions of fact and that the suits are all in their “infancy,” as all were filed between Oct. 31, 2023, and Dec. 31, 2023.

All nine of the lawsuits alleged that real estate industry players (namely the National Association of Realtors, RE/MAX, Anywhere, Keller Williams, HomeServices of America, Compass, eXp Realty, Redfin, Douglas Elliman, Howard Hanna, United Real Estate, and Weichert) have colluded through NAR’s Participation Rule to artificially inflate real estate agent commissions.

The common questions noted in the motion include whether the defendants entered into an agreement or conspiracy based on NAR’s Participation Rule, whether the goal of the agreement was to inflate agent commissions, whether the competitive harm form the alleged conspiracy “substantially outweighs” any competitive benefits, and whether the defendants engage in or promote steering.

According to the motion, the centralization of these lawsuits will “reduce duplicative discovery and conserve the parties’ and courts’ resources,” as the defendants in the suits overlap to a certain extent in all nine of the lawsuits, and it eliminates the risk of inconsistent rulings.

The Gibson and Umpa plaintiffs also argue that transferring the other suits to Missouri is appropriate due to the central location of the jurisdiction given the widespread nature of the suits and that Bough’s experience overseeing the Sitzer/Burnett suit makes him the best person to rule on these copycat suits.

“In presiding over the Burnett action, Judge Bough ruled on motions to dismiss, a motion for class certification, motions for summary judgment and Daubert, and dozens of discovery and pretrial motions,” the motion states. “This familiarity militates strongly in favor of transfer to his courtroom.”

The motion also states that Bough’s administration and oversight over RE/MAX’s and Anywhere’s preliminarily approved settlement agreements in the Sitzer/Burnett, Moehrl and Nosalek suits, is equally important as RE/MAX and Anywhere, as well as some of their subsidiaries have been named as defendants in the Grace, March, Spring Way and Phillips suits.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for HomeServices of America said that the firm had anticipated that counsel for one or more of the plaintiffs would seek consolidation.

“We are currently evaluating the substance of the motion and the best manner for HomeServices to continue to protect those we represent and defend our position in the appropriate legal forums,” the statement continued.

A spokesperson for Howard Hanna also said that the firm is closely watching the situation and that the firm remains committed to upholding its core values of integrity and professionalism.

“As an organization, we take great strides to ensure our agents receive consistent, ongoing educational support, as well as access to a multitude of resources to assist them in achieving our overarching goal of providing the finest real estate experience to every home buyer and seller throughout the communities we conduct business,” the emailed statement read.

Compass, Douglas Elliman, eXp Realty, RE/MAX and Keller Williams declined to comment on the motion, while other defendants did not return a request for comment.

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