BAM Key Details: 

  • Law firms for the Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs are asking for one-third of the payouts from the RE/MAX, Anywhere, and Keller Williams settlements as payment for their five years and nearly 95,600 hours spent working on the case.
  • Those hours add up to over $80M at the firms’ usual hourly rate. They also spent nearly $13 million in out-of-pocket costs to file and prosecute Sitzer/Burnett and Moehrl. 

The firms for the Sitzer/Burnett and Moehrl plaintiffs with proposed settlements from Anywhere, RE/MAX, and Keller Williams are asking a federal court for $82.4 million. 

The attorneys are asking for one-third of the combined $208.5 million settlement payout in payment for nearly 100K hours working for the plaintiffs in both suits—plus reimbursement for their nearly $13 million in out-of-pocket expenses. 

“Class Counsel performed a massive amount of legal work leading to the Settlements, including more than 100 motions and responses, such as motions to dismiss, motions to transfer, motions to stay, motions to compel arbitration (and related appeals), class certification, Rule 23(f) appeal petitions, summary-judgment motions, Daubert motions, trial motions, and over 180 depositions.

“That was time and money spent and invested on behalf of the Settlement Class that could have been spent on less risky cases, where liability or damages were more certain, or where the claims had been advanced by previous litigation, government prosecutions or public admissions.”  

Who’s asking for what and why?

On February 29, 2024, attorneys for the three law firms representing the Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs—Williams Dirks Dameron, Boulware Law, and Ketchmark & McCreight—filed a motion in the U.S. District Court in Western Missouri requesting compensation for attorney fees and costs on behalf of their firms as well as the eight firms working for the Moehrl plaintiffs:

  • Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro
  • Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll
  • Susman Godfrey
  • Handley Farah & Anderson
  • Teske Law
  • Justice Catalyst Law 
  • Wright Marsh & Levy
  • Gustafson Gluek

According to the motion, the above-named law firms worked on a contingency basis for over five years, racking up nearly 96,500 hours combined, adding up to over $80 million based on the firms’ usual hourly rates. 

They also spent a total of nearly $13 million in out-of-pocket costs to file and prosecute Sitzer/Burnett and Moehrl through the date of the Keller Williams settlement. 

The requested payment of $82.4 million amounts to 39.5% of the total settlement payout. 

From the attorneys’ motion: 

“Class Counsel faced large risk representing the Settlement Class…They did so despite this case having no roadmap or pre-established path to a recovery. Indeed, far from any guarantee that they would be paid for their work or reimbursed their expenses, Class Counsel faced off against well-funded and entrenched opponents represented by at least twenty of the top defense firms in the country.”

The motion also states that one-third of the settlement fund plus case expenses is a “customary” fee for attorneys. In a phone interview with Inman, Michael Ketchmark, lead attorney for the Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs, noted that this fee is just for the three proposed settlements. 

If there’s additional money that’s collected by way of judgment or additional settlements, the law allows us to make additional fee applications.

Michael Ketchmark

Lead attorney for the Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs

If you watched the HousingWire debate between Ketchmarck and Anthony Lammachia, or read any comments about the case online, chances are you’ve heard agents question the fees attorneys will receive. Especially since the attorneys are going after agent commissions

Ketchmark told Inman, there’s “zero comparison between the two.” 

There’s a difference between a fee application where the court comes in and reviews an amount and approves an amount and conspiring with your competitors to set your wages.

We’re asking the judge to approve the amount under the law. We didn’t ask the defendants in this case to agree to pay a commission before the trial or pay a contingency before the trial.

Michael Ketchmark

Lead attorney for the Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs