Venue Wars: National Association of Realtors and Plaintiffs Clash Over Lawsuit Location
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) and a coalition of plaintiffs’ lawyers are locked in a fierce dispute over the venue for determining the fate of multiple consumer lawsuits challenging a long-standing fee in the brokerage industry. With billions of dollars potentially hanging in the balance, the battleground has shifted to the question of where these lawsuits will be consolidated and heard, reported Reuters.
The NAR made its stance clear in a filing with a U.S. court panel on Tuesday, arguing that the growing number of antitrust lawsuits should be consolidated and heard by a U.S. judge in Chicago. This move comes in opposition to a previous request from plaintiffs’ lawyers who sought to relocate all the cases to Missouri, where a jury handed down a substantial $1.8 billion verdict against the NAR and several brokerages in a related lawsuit last year. The Missouri verdict, delivered on October 31, 2023, triggered a flood of lawsuits in U.S. courts, alleging that sellers are paying artificially inflated commissions to buyers’ agents.
The NAR, based in Chicago, defended its preference for consolidation in Illinois, stating in a press release on Tuesday that it “believes that centralizing all cases in the Northern District of Illinois will promote efficiency and consistency in addressing the industry-wide issues these cases present.”
The legal saga began to unfold following the Missouri federal court’s verdict, with new cases sprouting up in various states, including New York, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, and others. The common thread among these cases is the allegation that sellers have been compelled to pay inflated commissions due to industry practices.
A related case against the NAR and a group of brokers has long been pending in Chicago, adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing legal battles. The sheer volume of cases and the potential financial repercussions have escalated the stakes for both the NAR and the plaintiffs.
As the legal maneuvering intensifies, attorneys for the plaintiffs suing the NAR and major home brokerages have yet to respond to the latest development. The battle over consolidation and venue selection is poised to shape the trajectory of these lawsuits, with far-reaching implications for the real estate industry as a whole. The court’s decision on where to centralize these cases will play a crucial role in determining the efficiency and fairness of addressing the industry-wide concerns raised by the plaintiffs.