NAR asks to suppress evidence as landmark trial nears

Trade group concerned about commission rule changes, investigations

NAR Asks to Suppress Evidence as Landmark Trial Nears
NAR president Kenny Parcell (NAR, Getty; Illustration by The Real Deal)

With slightly more than a month until trial is set to begin in a landmark agent commissions suit, the National Association of Realtors is trying to improve its position by asking for certain evidence to be suppressed.

Attorneys for the trade group and four real estate franchisors involved in the case known as Sitzer/Burnett filed four requests in the U.S. District Court in Western Missouri to suppress evidence that could be perceived as prejudicial, Inman reported. Defendants in the case also include Keller Williams, Anywhere Real Estate, RE/MAX, and HomeServices of America.

NAR wants evidence regarding a trio of policy changes in recent years to be suppressed. Those policy changes came out of an antitrust settlement between the group and the Department of Justice, which has since become undone. Attorneys for the defendants told Inman that “NAR undertook these rule changes completely of its own volition.”

Other evidence the defendants want quashed include evidence or references to discrimination — including then-president Charlie Oppler’s formal apology in November 2020 — evidence connected to government investigation, such as the one by the DOJ, and past court decisions regarding NAR.

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At the end of last year, a judge dismissed motions for a summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Homeseller plaintiffs, led by Joshua Sitzer and Amy Winger, filed their lawsuit more than three years ago, alleging that sharing commissions between listing and buyer brokers violates the Sherman Antitrust Act.

In addition to changing the commission model, the lawsuit is also seeking $1.3 billion in reimbursements on behalf of sellers in Missouri over an eight-year period. Treble damages could raise the costs all the way to $4 billion.

The three-week jury trial, originally scheduled for February 2023, is set to begin in Kansas City on Oct. 16. NAR has expressed confidence the defendants would prevail in the case.

Holden Walter-Warner

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