Tag: Trial court

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.

Google Earth Images Ruled Admissible

Recently, a Louisiana appellate court found that images from Google Earth images were admissible.   In Walker v. S.G.B.C., LLC, 2019-506 (La.App. 3Cir. 2/5/20); — So.3d —, 2020 WL 563818, the Louisiana Third Circuit rejected a challenge to the use of the images on the basis that they were not properly authenticated. 

In this case, the plaintiff sought recognition of a historical servitude of passage from his landlocked property. During the trial, the plaintiff offered Google Earth images of the property to show a gravel pathway on the alleged right of way. The images were dated January 2004, November 2005, and December 2017.  Multiple witnesses identified the path on the images. Thereafter, the trial court admitted the images into evidence over the defendant’s objections.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the images were not properly authenticated under La. C.E. art. 901 because the plaintiff did not: (1) have the creator of the images testify to their authenticity; (2) get a certification from Google that the images were what they purported to be; and (3) have an expert testify that the images were accurate depictions of what they claimed to be.

The Walker court affirmed the trial court ruling that these images were admissible. Louisiana Code of Evidence Article 901(B)(1) provides the testimony of a witness with personal knowledge may supply the authentication of evidence required for its admission. Because the plaintiff identified various landmarks on each image, and each image was subsequently recognized by multiple witnesses (including the defendant’s witnesses), the Court concluded there was sufficient support for finding the images authentic.

In Walker, the precise dates the photographs were taken were not critical. Under different facts, courts may choose to apply the authentication rules of Article 901 more stringently.

Chris Jones is a partner with Keogh Cox in Baton Rouge, LA.  He focuses his practice on class actions and mass torts, and handles these matters in courts throughout the country.  He is a life-long resident of Baton Rouge, where he lives with his wife and four children.

Grounds for Appeal: Preparing for Round Two

Lawsuits begin in the trial court. For that reason, the immediate focus remains in the trial court where the case will be decided by the jury or the trial judge. However, once the judgment is entered or the verdict reached, the focus quickly shifts to the appeals court. In many cases, what happens in the trial court is just “round one” and cases are often truly decided on appeal. This post will help to identify the types of issues considered when there is an appeal.