Jury finds in favor of the plaintiffs and orders NAR and brokerages to pay $1.78 billion in damages related to buyer broker commissions.
On 31 October 2023, after an 11-day trial, a Missouri jury found in favor of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit filed against the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and other major brokerages related to buyer broker commissions in the Sitzer/Burnett buyer broker commission lawsuit (Burnett et al vs. National Association of Realtors et al). The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants conspired to follow and enforce the cooperative compensation rule to artificially inflate and protect commissions paid to a buyer’s agent by the listing brokerage in a real estate transaction.
Two other named defendant brokerages in the Sitzer/Burnett case, Anywhere and RE/MAX, previously announced proposed settlements for this case along with the separate Moerhl class action lawsuit (Moerhl vs. National Association of Realtors et. al). Shortly after the verdict was announced, the plaintiff’s attorneys in the Sitzer/Burnett suit also filed a separate suit against several additional brokerages that were not defendants in the initial case.
This case was limited to the State of Missouri and some transactions in the neighboring states of Kansas and Illinois and transactions from the dates of April 2015 to June 2022. The case does not impact listings or transactions occurring outside of these areas.
Judge Stephen Bough still needs to issue final judgement in the Sitzer/Burnett case based on the jury’s verdict. According to statements reported by Housing Wire, case defendants have either directly stated or have alluded to appealing the jury’s verdict and asking for a reduction in case damages.
The Sitzer/Burnett case is one of multiple legal cases in the United States that could dramatically impact the U.S. real estate industry and how commissions are handled for all types of transactions, including relocations. Worldwide ERC (WERC) will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates as they are available.
Michael T. Jackson is the vice president of member engagement and public policy at WERC. Jay Hershman, SCRP, is an attorney with Baillie and Hershman, P.C. and the past chair of WERC’s North American real estate and mortgage policy forum.