BAM Key Details: 

  • HomeServices of America hit a dead end with its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. Its petition was denied today (April 15, 2024) with no further comment from the highest court in the nation. 
  • The denial leaves HomeServices of America as the only defendant in Sitzer/Burnett that hasn’t reached a settlement.

On Monday, April 15, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition filed by HomeServices of America to overturn the Sitzer/Burnett verdict. 

The highest court in the U.S. has spoken: The Sitzer/Burnett verdict stands. And that leaves HomeServices as the only defendant that has not reached a settlement. 

Meanwhile, the Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs have filed against HomeServices for the entire trebled amount of damages ($5.4 billion) minus the $626.5 million they’ll receive through settlements with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Anywhere, RE/MAX, and Keller Williams

So, if HomeServices can’t reach a settlement, they could be on the hook for $4.7 billion. 

While not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision, Chris Kelly, executive vice president of HomeServices, upheld the reasoning behind the petition. 

While we firmly believed the arbitration issue we raised through our petition to the Supreme Court was an important matter, given the conflicting interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act at the circuit court level, we certainly understood the odds and the very limited number of cases the Supreme Court selects each session. It was just one of many paths we believed were important to pursue.

Chris Kelly

Executive Vice President of HomeServices

The HomeServices petition

Back in February—a day after Keller Williams reached a settlement with the Sitzer/Burnett plaintiffs—HomeServices of America filed a petition with the Supreme Court arguing that the Eighth U.S. Circuit of Appeals overstepped in its decision to reject arbitration agreements and proceed with the class action lawsuit. 

From the HomeServices petition: 

The Eighth Circuit’s erroneous decision to usurp the arbitrator’s authority subjected HomeServices to an unwarranted class trial and a resulting jury verdict of $1.8 billion… 

That trial should never have occurred because the plaintiffs are required to arbitrate their claims — and their arguments opposing arbitration must be resolved by the arbitrator, not a court.

HomeServices asked the Supreme Court to reject the Sitzer/Burnett trial and its $1.8 billion verdict, arguing that an arbitration agreement was in place and should have been enforced. The Eighth U.S. Circuit of Appeal had instead dismissed the arbitration agreement on the grounds that a non-signatory parent company (associated with one of the named defendants) was not entitled to compel arbitration, even when the home sellers had previously agreed to it. 

The appellate court also noted that HomeServices of America had effectively waived its right to arbitration by litigating the Sitzer/Burnett case for nearly a year before filing its motion. 

The goal in filing a petition with the Supreme Court was twofold: 

  1. Getting the Sitzer/Burnett case (and verdict) thrown out
  2. Ensuring the uniform nationwide application of the Federal Arbitration Act

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of their petition means the Sitzer/Burnett verdict still stands. The lack of any further comment leaves the second objective in limbo. 

The Supreme Court’s ruling follows the rejection of another HomeServices petition to decertify Sitzer/Burnett as a class action lawsuit. Judge Stephen R. Bough dismissed that petition in a statement on March 26

So, what options does HomeServices have left? 

It can continue to fight the Sitzer/Burnett ruling. Judge Bough has set a due date of April 23 for post-verdict motions and final responses, including a request for a new trial. 

HomeServices is also embroiled in a conflict with Sitzer/Burnett over the latter’s request for $4.7 billion in damages. HomeServices responded to that request by arguing it’s too soon to issue a judgment. The plaintiffs then pushed back and accused HomeServices of “asking the Court to deprive the Class of many millions of dollars in interest to which it is entitled.” 

Stay tuned for more as the story develops.