In a pivotal development, Berkshire Hathaway’s HomeServices of America (HS) has formally petitioned the United States Supreme Court to intervene in an ongoing antitrust lawsuit. The company contends that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected its request for arbitration, a decision with potentially “far-reaching ramifications for the validity of arbitration clauses in the United States,” according to HS Executive Vice President Chris Kelly.
The underlying case, Sitzer/Burnett v. HomeServices of America et al., accuses HS, along with industry giants Keller Williams and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), of conspiring to inflate real estate agent commissions artificially. Notably, a Missouri jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in October 2023, finding the defendants liable for these alleged anticompetitive practices.
However, HS maintains that individual arbitration agreements signed by unnamed class members should have prevented their participation in the lawsuit. The company argues that the Eighth Circuit improperly disregarded these binding agreements, effectively denying them their contractual right to individual dispute resolution.
By seeking Supreme Court review, HS hopes to overturn the lower Court’s decision and potentially force the arbitration of individual claims outside the confines of the class action suit. This maneuver hinges on the Court’s interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), a statute governing the enforceability of pre-dispute arbitration agreements.
Should the Supreme Court decide to hear the case, its ruling could have significant implications beyond the immediate parties involved. If HS prevails, it could bolster the enforceability of arbitration clauses in various contexts, potentially limiting class action lawsuits in favor of individual arbitration proceedings. Conversely, a decision against HS could weaken the presumption of enforceability, making it easier for plaintiffs to challenge arbitration agreements and pursue class action claims.
With the stakes high for both sides, the Supreme Court’s decision on whether to grant certiorari (review) in this case is keenly awaited. The legal and business communities will closely monitor any developments, as the outcome could reshape the landscape of antitrust litigation and dispute resolution practices across the nation.