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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Verdict is in: Coldwell Banker’s Chris Cortazzo wins in dual-agency transaction case

A jury ruled Cortazzo upheld his fiduciary responsibility to the buyer of a $12M Malibu mansion
April 06, 2018 02:00PM

Chris Cortazzo (Credit: PxHere, Wikimedia Commons)

California law now explicitly states that a real estate broker representing the buyer and seller on a deal has the same fiduciary responsibility to both parties. That 2016 decision came about from a lawsuit a Chinese millionaire filed against Coldwell Banker agent Chris Cortazzo involving a $12.5 million Malibu mansion.

On Thursday, a Superior Court jury ruled in Cortazzo’s favor, finding he did not breach that fiduciary responsibility to the buyer, Horishi Horiike, and did not mislead him in the purchase of the Malibu home, the Orange County Register reported. Horiike lost on all counts.

The decision ends the five-year saga in the case of Horiike v. Coldwell Banker. Cortazzo helped broker the 2007 sale of the mansion to Horiike. Chizuko Namba of Coldwell Banker represented Horiike, while Cortazzo, also with Coldwell Banker, represented the seller, Denis Brown.

After closing on the property, Horiike alleged that Cortazzo and Coldwell Banker wildly exaggerated the property’s square footage. He lost his case in 2012, then appealed two years later. The Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling, which could have far-reaching implications about how information is shared in so-called dual agency transactions, did not decide the merits of Horiike’s case itself.

The lawsuit was returned to the lower court, and Thursday’s verdict followed a trial that included testimony from Cortazzo. In addition upholding his fiduciary responsibility, the jury also found that Cortazzo did not intentionally or negligently misrepresent the property, according to the Register.

“I am pleased with the court’s decision,” Cortazzo said in a statement. “I operate with integrity and strive to uphold the highest of ethical standards.”

Horiike’s attorney, Zachary Schorr, said Horiike may appeal the decision. [OCR] — Natalie Hoberman