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Ellis v. Tri-City Commercial Sales: Award Upheld for Conspiracy to Deprive Brokerage of Commission

In Ellis v. Tri-City Commercial Sales, Inc., the Court of Appeals of Georgia addressed an alleged conspiracy to deprive a brokerage of a commission. The court affirmed the award of actual and punitive damages, as it found: (1) the firm was the procuring cause of the sale, (2) it had a contractual right to commission, and (3) defendants engaged in a bad-faith attempt to deprive the brokerage of that commission.

Tri-City, a real estate brokerage firm, sued the defendants to recover actual and punitive damages for their alleged conspiracy to deprive the firm of its right to receive a commission on the sale of certain land. The jury returned a verdict awarding the firm $10,000 in actual damages and $5,000 in punitive damages. On appeal, the defendants contend that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the plaintiff had any contractual relationship with the seller which would have authorized it to receive a commission.

The Court held that the evidence was sufficient to establish both that the plaintiff was the procuring cause of the sale and that it had a contractual right to a commission from the seller pursuant to an open listing agreement. The evidence was also sufficient to establish that the defendants engaged in a bad-faith attempt to deprive the plaintiff of a commission by arranging for the land to be deeded first to a dummy purchaser and then, immediately thereafter, to the actual purchaser, who was one of the defendants. The court concluded that under these circumstances, an award of both actual and punitive damages was authorized.

Ellis v. Tri-City Commercial Sales, Inc., 159 Ga. App. 441, 283 S.E.2d 670 (1981).

For other cites on this topic, see generally: Clayton McLendon, Inc. v. Judge & Co., 142 Ga. App. 659, 236 S.E.2d 683 (1977); Ideal Realty Co. v. Storch, 124 Ga. App. 271, 183 S.E.2d 520 (1971).