The scales of justice and a gavel sit on a table next to an open laptop and blank journal.

Homebuyer files appeal challenging Sitzer/Burnett settlements 

A plaintiff involved in the Batton cases filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday related to the Anywhere, RE/MAX and KW settlements.

May 31, 2024
3 minutes

A plaintiff in two commissions lawsuits representing homebuyers has filed an appeal challenging the final approval of the settlements reached by Anywhere, RE/MAX and Keller Williams.

What's happening: James Mullis, a plaintiff in both Batton cases, filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on May 31. He is appealing the district court's ruling to finalize the brokerage settlements in the Sitzer/Burnett case. 

The three settlements, which were given final approval on May 9, totaled $208.5 million and required the companies to make changes to their commissions practices.

Previous efforts to block the settlements: Plaintiffs in the Batton cases had attempted to delay final settlement approval on May 8, alleging that the defendants didn't disclose a plan to claim immunity from homebuyer claims — specifically from Batton class members who also sold a home — until less than a week before the final approval hearing.

The immunity plan prevented Batton homebuyers from pursuing claims on the buy-side if they were part of the sell-side settlements, unless they had opted out of those settlements by April 13.

Mullis had filed an objection to the settlements on April 13, arguing that the wording of the settlements might allow for such an immunity plan. He requested a slight change to the language "to ensure that the only claims released by class members are those related to transactions in which the class member was a home seller, and that the releases have no impact on their homebuyer-based claims."

Judge Stephen Bough, who gave final approval to the three settlements, said in a filing that the Batton homebuyer claims mirrored those of home sellers, as both sets of plaintiffs alleged a conspiracy to keep commission costs high. He also noted that courts regularly certify broader classes and release broader claims in these types of settlements.

"And, of course, if a homeseller believed that they would be better off by opting out of the settlement to be able to pursue additional buyer claims, they were entitled to do so," Bough wrote, referring to the opt-out option that expired on April 13.

Background on Batton: The plaintiffs in Batton 1 and Batton 2 make 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 commissions system. 

The two cases, which include the same plaintiffs but different defendants, have been proceeding normally during the settlement process, although they were paused for a time when a multidistrict litigation panel 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 for the cases laid out a lengthy discovery process that won't be completed until May 2026.

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