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Homebuyers try to halt approval of commissions settlements 

Anywhere, RE/MAX and KW deals at risk after new documents reveal a plan to include immunity from buy-side lawsuits, plaintiffs in the Batton case allege.

May 8, 2024
3 minutes

The first wave of settlements in the buyer agent commissions cases may have hit a snag, just one day before final approval was expected.

The plaintiffs in the Batton cases in Illinois have filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and injunction on the preliminary settlements with Anywhere, RE/MAX and Keller Williams. A hearing to finalize those settlements is scheduled for 10 a.m. local time on May 9 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City.

What the Batton plaintiffs are saying: The homebuyers in the Batton cases allege that the defendants in the settlements didn't disclose a plan to claim immunity from homebuyer claims — specifically from Batton class members who also sold a home and would be included in the settlement class on the sell-side — until May 3, six days before the final approval hearing.

In a court document filed May 8, Randall P. Ewing, Jr., the attorney for the Batton plaintiffs, argued that the settlement class in the Sitzer/Burnett case "from the beginning … purported to represent a class consisting of only home sellers who 'paid a broker commission.'" 

When the Anywhere and RE/MAX settlements — which included both Sitzer/Burnett and Moehrl — were announced last September, Ewing said it was understood by the court that the settlements would have no impact on the Batton case, pointing to a statement by the court that the settlements were not "intended to resolve this case which deals with similar issues from the buyer side."

Only after the opt-out deadline had passed in April "did the Settling Defendants file motions making clear what they had previously kept clandestine: their intent to settle as much of the Batton homebuyer claims as possible with class counsel representing homesellers, for no additional consideration, while simultaneously claiming they have only limited funds available," the court documents stated.

In the motion filed today in Illinois, the Batton plaintiffs said the revelation about the settlements would "irreparably harm" them by releasing many of their claims without compensation. 

The restraining order motion does not involve the National Association of Realtors' settlement, which includes rule changes that will take effect in August.

Background on the Batton cases: The plaintiffs in Batton 1 and Batton 2 made similar claims as the plaintiffs in the Sitzer/Burnett and Moehrl cases, but they involve homebuyers, rather than sellers, who allege they were harmed by the current commission system. 

The two cases, which include the same plaintiffs but different defendants, have been proceeding normally during the settlement process, although both were paused for a time when a different court was considering consolidation of all the commission cases. Both cases are being handled by U.S. District Court Judge Andrea Wood.

In recent filings, a schedule was finalized on what will be a lengthy discovery process in the cases that wouldn't be completed until May 2026.

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