Plaintiffs Seek Partial Summary Judgment in Moehrl Commission Case

In an attempt to counter the defendants’ Dec. 19 request for summary judgment in their favor in the ongoing commission case known as Moehrl, the plaintiffs on Feb. 26 filed their own motion, essentially countering the defendants’ ‘No, we didn’t’ insistence on whether they conspired to fix commissions with their ‘Yes, you did.’

Appealing to Judge Andrea R. Wood, presiding in the Northern District of Illinois, plaintiffs Christopher Moehrl, Michael Cole, Steve Darnell, Jack Ramey, Daniel Umpa and Jane Ruh are seeking to have Wood rule for at least a partial summary judgment in their favor—essentially, seeking to have certain issues decided before any trial begins, based on facts that are allegedly not disputed by defendants

In an earlier request, defendants also sought an immediate judgment to have the lawsuit thrown out.

Plaintiffs filed the bulk of their arguments in sealed, non-public documents, citing confidentiality of testimony and data gathered during discovery. The issues they are asking Wood to rule include affirming that certain National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) rules constitute a “contract, combination or conspiracy” under federal antitrust law and that defendants participated in it, and that MLS brokers governed by NAR rules in 20 separate regions across the country “had market power at all relevant times.”

The case, a larger one than the now famous Burnett trial, in which NAR and other defendants were found to have conspired to inflate commissions in violation of federal law, is to go to trial later this year after Wood denied a request for a delay. NAR, Keller Williams and HomeServices of America are the defendants. Plaintiffs in the class-action suit include homesellers who used 20 NAR-affiliated MLSs during a four-year period leading up to the filing of the lawsuit (2015 – 2019).

The complaint argues that defendants conspired to create rules that inflated commissions paid by sellers, specifically the “participation rule,” which mandates offers of compensation to buyer agents. Plaintiffs also alleged broad anti-competitive practices, including price-fixing and steering. 

Similar but not identical in substance to Burnett, the Moehrl case is notable due to its scope and the fact that it has advanced closer to trial, compared to other lawsuits. Originally filed in 2019, plaintiffs estimated potential damages around $13 billion compared to the $1.8 billion judgment in Burnett. NAR has asked to consolidate many or most of the ongoing commission-focused lawsuits in this district, with Judge Wood presiding over pre-trial proceedings.

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