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.