HomeServices of America logo and a courthouse exterior
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

Supreme Court to HomeServices: Sitzer/Burnett verdict stands 

The brokerage lost its bid to have the verdict tossed out, leaving it with fewer options as the lone defendant in the landmark commissions case.

April 15, 2024
3 minutes

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition from HomeServices of America to reject the Sitzer/Burnett verdict, leaving the brokerage giant — and lone defendant in the Missouri commissions case — with fewer remaining avenues as the company faces the potential for billions in damages.

The petition was denied on April 15, with no further comment from the court.

Chris Kelly, executive vice president at HomeServices, said that while the company felt strongly about its petition, the outcome was not entirely unexpected.

"While we firmly believed the arbitration issue we raised through our petition to the Supreme Court was an important matter, given the conflicting interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act at the circuit court level, we certainly understood the odds and the very limited number of cases the Supreme Court selects each session," Kelly said. "It was just one of many paths we believed were important to pursue."

The case: HomeServices asked the high court to reject the Sitzer/Burnett trial and its $1.8 billion verdict, arguing that the home sellers involved had agreed to arbitrate the dispute out of court. 

The Eighth U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled prior to the Sitzer/Burnett trial that the case should be heard before a judge, noting that HomeServices effectively waived its right to arbitrate by actively litigating the case for about a year before filing its motion.

In addition to getting the Sitzer/Burnett case thrown out, HomeServices hoped "also to ensure the uniform application of the Federal Arbitration Act nationwide," said Kelly in February when the brokerage filed its motion before the Supreme Court.

Where does HomeServices go from here? The latest ruling is another loss for HomeServices following a failed attempt to decertify the Sitzer/Burnett case as a class action. The judge denied that request in March. 

But the company still has other options as it continues to pursue the path of litigation. Post-verdict motions and final responses in Sitzer/Burnett are due to U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Bough on April 23. Those motions include a request for a new trial and a judgment as a matter of law.

HomeServices is also sparring with plaintiffs over a request for $4.7 billion in damages. HomeServices responded by saying it's too soon to issue a judgment, while the plaintiffs pushed back and said that by delaying judgment, "HomeServices is asking the Court to deprive the Class of many millions of dollars in interest to which it is entitled."

The brokerage is the only defendant left in the Sitzer/Burnett case after Anywhere, RE/MAX, Keller Williams and the National Association of Realtors reached settlement agreements totaling $626.5 million.

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