Author: Martin E. "Marty" Golden

Court Awards Realtor Commission and Attorney’s Fees Despite Breach of Purchase Agreement

The owner of a strip mall retained a realtor to list available property in its shopping center. A purchase agreement was secured and set a deadline to complete the sale. When the purchaser did not complete the sale, the realtor sued the purchaser for lost commission. See Beau Box Commercial Real Estate, LLC v. Pennywise Solutions, Inc., 2019-0114 (La. App. 1 Cir. 10/23/19), 289 So. 3d 600.  The case raised the issue of whether the realtor was a third-party beneficiary to the purchase agreement.

After the sale fell through, the realtor filed suit against the purchaser to recover commission for the sale of the property, attorney’s fees, and other costs. In response, the purchaser admitted to the breach of the purchase agreement but argued that the listing agent had no right to recover because it was not a party to the purchase agreement. The trial court disagreed and granted summary judgment in the realtor’s favor. The trial court held that the purchase agreement established a “stipulation pour autrui”(third-party benefit) for the realtor.

The court acknowledged that agents generally are not parties to purchase agreements. However, the language of the specific purchase agreement conferred a benefit in favor of both agents because it explicitly stated that a party defaulting on the purchase agreement “shall be liable” for realtor’s commissions, attorney’s fees, and costs incurred in the enforcement of the contract.

The court also rejected the purchaser’s second argument that it had to be “placed in default” before any cause of action could arise. In response, court found that, when a term for performance is fixed in a contract, the arrival of that term automatically puts the breaching party in default.

The result in Beau Box may be limited to its own facts. However, realtors and parties should now pay closer attention to the terms of purchase agreement, which can create benefits for non-parties to the contract.


Marty Golden has been practicing law based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for over thirty years, concentrating in civil litigation primarily involving injuries, property damage, insurance coverage, and contract disputes. Much of his practice is defending and advising real estate agents in suits by property buyers and sellers, but Marty also defends other professionals, insurance companies, manufacturers, and business owners. Marty has a special interest in all things procedural, because they are the rules of the road for litigators and knowing them better than his opponent gives him a leg up in court.

When It Comes to Real Estate, Get It In Writing

As the old adage goes, it’s always safest to get an agreement in writing.  In Louisiana, when an agreement is about the sale of real estate, the adage is law.  A contract for sale must be in writing as provided in Louisiana Civil Code articles 1839 and 2440.

This long-standing rule was at issue in the recent case of Holmes v. Paul, 19-130 (La. App. 5 Cir. 10/2/19), 279 So. 3d 1068. In Holmes, the plaintiff/seller and defendants/purchasers entered into a purchase agreement for a Metairie home which required a closing by no later than April 29, 2016.  The contract was a standard form Louisiana purchase agreement which required that any change in the closing deadline be written and signed by both parties.  The parties later entered a written extension of the closing deadline to May 6, 2016. 

Three days before the closing, the home appraised for $14,000 below the purchase price, leading the seller’s agent to encourage the purchasers’ agent to pursue an appraisal review.  However, the parties did not sign a written extension of the May 6, 2016 closing deadline.  Thereafter, the seller agreed to decrease the purchase price to the appraised value, but on the same day the purchasers sent a signed cancellation. The seller sued the purchasers for breach of contract, arguing that the parties verbally agreed to extend the closing deadline and intended to execute a written extension as soon as they determined a feasible closing date. 

The purchasers moved for summary judgment on the ground that the purchase agreement had expired and was unenforceable.  The Court agreed. The purchase agreement expressly required that extensions be made in writing signed by both parties.  Upon the expiration of the May 6, 2016 closing deadline, the contract was unenforceable. 

The seller also asserted a detrimental reliance claim, arguing she was lulled into not insisting on a written extension because the purchasers’ agent agreed to it orally.  However, the seller conceded her awareness that an extension had to be in writing. As such, her reliance was not reasonable. The court further noted the absence of evidence that the purchasers themselves agreed to orally extend the contract or to waive the writing requirement. 

Unfortunately, business deals in the modern world cannot be finalized by a handshake.  Remember that when you buy and sell property in Louisiana — get it in writing.


Marty Golden has been practicing law based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for over thirty years, concentrating in civil litigation primarily involving injuries, property damage, insurance coverage, and contract disputes. Much of his practice is defending and advising real estate agents in suits by property buyers and sellers, but Marty also defends other professionals, insurance companies, manufacturers, and business owners. Marty has a special interest in all things procedural, because they are the rules of the road for litigators and knowing them better than his opponent gives him a leg up in court.

Real Estate Liability: Recovery Denied in “As Is” Sale Despite Quick Discovery of Mold

In the recent case of Riedel v. Fenasci, 2018-0540 (La. App. 1 Cir. 12/28/18), _______ So. 3d _______, 2018 WL 6818716, home buyers sued the sellers and the involved real estate agents after mold was discovered shortly following the sale. This is a common fact pattern in humid South Louisiana. The buyers lost in the trial court when there was no evidence that the sellers or the agents knew of the problem. The result was affirmed by the First Circuit Court of Appeal. 

The Riedels identified mold weeks after the closing and filed a claim with their homeowner’s insurer. But the claim was denied when the insurer’s inspection revealed long- term damage, rot, and deterioration in a ceiling due to water damage.  That finding prompted the suit.

Against the sellers, the Riedels contended that they “had to have known” about the moisture and mold in the home prior to the sale.  Because the home was sold “as is,” they had to establish fraud to recover. However, the sellers had not lived in the home for years and had received no complaints from tenants over this time. Under such facts, the claim of fraud was not supported.

The Riedels also sued both agents for negligent misrepresentation, and their own agent for breach of fiduciary duty.  In assessing the claim against the agents, the Riedel Court agreed that real estate agents are liable for negligent misrepresentation when they fail to disclose hidden defects in the property which were known or should have been known to them. The Court also agreed that a purchaser’s real estate agent owes a fiduciary duty, the highest duty of care recognized by law.  Nevertheless, when the plaintiffs’ own inspector found no visible evidence of mold prior to the sale and there was no indication that the agents possessed prior knowledge of the mold, the claim against the agents was also dismissed.

Marty Golden has been practicing law based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for over thirty years, concentrating in civil litigation primarily involving injuries, property damage, insurance coverage, and contract disputes. Much of his practice is defending and advising real estate agents in suits by property buyers and sellers, but Marty also defends other professionals, insurance companies, manufacturers, and business owners. Marty has a special interest in all things procedural, because they are the rules of the road for litigators and knowing them better than his opponent gives him a leg up in court.