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Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

KW still on the hook for spam calls, judge rules 

A Pennsylvania judge concluded the brokerage company has personal jurisdiction in a telemarketing lawsuit involving agents from a franchise office.

April 18, 2024
3 minutes

Keller Williams continues to deal with charges of unwanted telemarketing, this time in Pennsylvania. A judge ruled on Tuesday that a lawsuit against the firm can proceed, denying the company's assertion that, because the agents involved work for a franchisee, it had no personal jurisdiction in the case.

Case details: In an opinion filed April 16, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Savage ruled that the company will continue to be a defendant along with two agents who allegedly left 24 voicemail messages for the plaintiff, James Havassy, over a one-week period in December 2018. The voicemails were inquiring about listing Havassy's house for sale.

Havassy had his phone numbers listed on the National Do Not Call Registry and did not consent to the solicitation calls, according to court documents.

Case history: Originally filed in Pennsylvania, this lawsuit was later moved to the Western District of Texas and then transferred back to Pennsylvania in July 2023. 

Keller Williams reached a $40 million settlement in a nationwide class action suit over unsolicited calls and text messages in Florida last year, but claims based on calls from the two agents in this case, Peter Hewitt and Kelly Houston, were excluded from that settlement. 

What the judge had to say: While acknowledging that Keller Williams Realty Inc. does not have offices, own real estate or maintain bank accounts in Pennsylvania, he noted that the franchisees have sold more than 160,000 properties in the state and received at least $14 million in royalty income from real estate sales during the class period, dating back to 2017.

The judge concluded that while KW had no general jurisdiction, it did have personal jurisdiction in the case.

"KWRI purposely availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Pennsylvania through its activities here," Judge Savage said, adding that the company "deliberately reaches out through its advertising to exploit the Pennsylvania real estate market."

Judge Savage also noted that KWRI supplies the technology used to generate leads and retains control over advertising, and that the agents in the franchise office identified themselves as being associated with Keller Williams when making calls, used the Keller Williams logo and have Keller Williams in their email addresses.

The Judge did not rule on the merits of the plaintiff's claim or comment on KW's policies or guidelines.

What Keller Williams had to say: "Keller Williams had no involvement in the alleged calls at the heart of this lawsuit, and as such, we don't believe the plaintiff has grounds to bring a lawsuit against Keller Williams," said Darryl Frost, KW spokesperson. 

"This is still an early stage of the legal process, and we are confident in our defense once we have the opportunity to present it."

Other telemarketing troubles: Since last year's $40 million settlement, Keller Williams has had to defend itself in other cases beyond Havassy, including one filed earlier this month in Texas by Mark Ortega. Ortega is seeking class action status for the case.

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