Morgan & Morgan wins $840,000 Jury Verdict for Sotheby’s Real Estate Brokerage
Attorneys William Lewis, Benjamin Webster, and Katherine Thanos won an $840,000 jury verdict in West Palm Beach, Florida on behalf of Equestrian Sotheby’s real estate brokerage (“Sotheby’s”). The jury verdict represents 100% of the commission owed to Sotheby’s for the $21 million property sale in Wellington, Florida.
Sotheby’s listed the Defendants’ 38-acre polo property in Wellington, Florida. In December 2019, Sotheby’s procured a buyer for the property, real estate developer Mark Bellissimo, whose company entered into a contract for $19.2 million, with a closing date of May 1, 2020.
Due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, Bellissimo requested an extension of the closing date. When the Defendants and Bellissimo could not agree on an extension, the Defendants filed a lawsuit to recover the $1 million escrowed deposit.
During the pendency of the lawsuit between Defendants and the buyer, Sotheby’s continued to market the property. In June 2021, however, the Defendants terminated their brokerage relationship with Sotheby’s and engaged a new broker, Douglas Elliman.
In September 2021, the Defendants entered into a second contract with Bellissimo to resolve their lawsuit over the $1 million deposit and complete the transaction for a sale price of $21 million. The defendants did not notify Sotheby’s that the property was being sold to Bellissimo's company and did not pay Sotheby’s any commission.
After discovering that the property had been sold to the buyer it procured, Sotheby’s engaged the Business Trial Group to file a lawsuit to recover its commission. The lawsuit alleged that Sotheby’s was owed a commission as the procuring cause of the sale to Bellissimo's entity and that the failure to pay a commission was a breach of an oral contract. In response, the Defendants argued, among other things, that the second contract with Bellissimo, which was executed 21 months after the original contract, was a new transaction, so Sotheby's was not entitled to a commission as the procuring cause.
After more than a year and a half of litigation and a 5-day trial in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, the jury held that Sotheby’s was owed an $840,000 commission on the $21 million sale. The verdict represented 100% of the damages requested by Sotheby’s.
The Defendants were represented by the law firm of Fox Rothschild, one of the largest corporate law firms in the United States.
The verdict for Sotheby’s continues a string of trial victories and settlements for the Business Trial Group in lawsuits related to real estate commissions. These have included a $1,790,000 jury verdict for a real estate broker in Brevard County, FL and a $427,800 jury verdict In Charlotte County, FL.
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