Home sellers pursuing antitrust claims over allegedly anti-competitive National Association of Realtors commissions rules urged an Illinois federal judge Thursday to stop a real estate brokerage's attempt to "end-run" an earlier discovery order by subpoenaing its own franchises for documents they've requested.
In a joint status report, the home sellers told U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood that Keller Williams Realty Inc. refused to collect documents from its franchises that respond to their pending discovery requests in a proposed class action, opting to subpoena them despite a ruling last month saying brokerages defending their antitrust suit have enough control over their franchises' documents to pursue them without the subpoenas. They urged the court to direct Keller Williams to produce their requested documents "promptly, and through its own control."
Keller Williams pushed back in the submission, though, asserting the home sellers' objections "amount to nothing more than inappropriate meddling" in its effort to satisfy its discovery obligations. The company told the court it made a good-faith determination that subpoenas will be necessary to reduce the risk of its franchises objecting to the collection and ensure timely compliance with the court's order.
"Plaintiffs' views as to how Keller Williams should meet its discovery obligations pursuant to the Court's order, to the extent relevant at all, cannot trump Keller Williams' views about how to address the practical complexities of meeting their discovery demands," the brokerage told the court.
The sellers are seeking documents potentially supporting their claim that certain NAR rules illegally inhibit competition and keep them locked into paying brokers a single rate no matter what quality of service they receive. They've been pursuing franchise documents from the defendant brokerages for several months, and all but Keller Williams decided to forego using subpoenas after the court said in July that they weren't necessary, according to the parties' status report.
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Law firm co-leading the plaintiffs' suit include Susman Godfrey LLP, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.
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