Broker must pay ex-client’s $646k legal bill in failed defamation lawsuit

Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club and David Roberts
Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club and David Roberts

Losing a defamation lawsuit against a former client is going to cost Boca Raton luxury real estate broker David Roberts more than half a million dollars in attorney fees.

Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Meenu Sasser ruled on Jan. 23 that Roberts must pay $646,135 to the ex-client Rick Felberbaum and his law firm for the amount of time spent defending against the broker’s accusations.

Eight years ago, Roberts and his company Royal Palm Properties sued Felberbaum, the law firm Felberbaum & Asociates, Christie’s International Realty, and Premier Estate Properties, a brokerage that has an affiliation agreement with Christie’s. According to the 2009 lawsuit, Roberts alleged that Felberbaum badmouthed his services in a Premier newsletter after he was unable to sell a $4 million house in the posh development Royal Palm the lawyer owned. Premier settled with Roberts, but Felberbaum and Christie’s went to trial. Last April, a jury ruled Roberts wasn’t defamed.

“We are very pleased that the court awarded my client with attorney’s fees, finally putting to rest this seven-year contentious litigation and validating my client’s actions,”  said Stephen Mendelsohn, a Greenberg Traurig shareholder who represented Felberbaum, in a statement.

Reached by phone, Roberts told The Real Deal the case isn’t over. “There’s definitely a good chance we’ll win on appeal,” Roberts said. He declined further comment. Felberbaum could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Rick Felberbaum

According to Roberts’ lawsuit, Felberbaum switched to Premier about a year after Royal Palm Properties initially listed the property in 2008. After Premier helped Felberbaum sell the home, he agreed to write a testimonial for the newsletter, which was mailed twice to Royal Palm homeowners.

“After one year-plus of virtual inactivity, ignored emails, unreturned phone calls and our perceived complete lack of their regard for selling our home, we signed up with Premier Estate Properties,” Felberbaum’s testimonial read. “Finally within a few short months of listing with you, our home was in contract.”

Roberts alleged the testimonial was clearly disparaging to him and to his company, damaging his business and reputation. He had sought $7 million in damages.