Justices grill Coldwell Banker on dual agent role

California Supreme Court to decide if listing agents owe fiduciary duty to buyers in intra-firm deals
  • In oral arguments Wednesday, the California Supreme Court questioned Coldwell Banker on its duties as a dual agent when its agents are on both sides of a real estate transaction.
  • The justices will decide within 90 days whether agents in in-house deals owe a fiduciary duty to both buyers and sellers.

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The seven justices of the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in a dual agency lawsuit that could change how the state's agents and brokers do their jobs when participating in in-house deals. The suit was filed in 2010 by a homebuyer, Hiroshi Horiike, who alleged that the listing agent for a multimillion-dollar Malibu property he bought in 2007 violated his fiduciary duty to Horiike by not investigating discrepancies in the size of the property. Horiike's buyer's agent and the listing agent belonged to the same brokerage firm, Coldwell Banker. This made Coldwell Banker a dual agent in the transaction, owing fiduciary duties to both buyer and seller. Chris Cortazzo Horiike contends that as an agent of Coldwell Banker, the listing agent, Chris Cortazzo, owed him the same fiduciary duties -- in particular, the duty to investigate material facts that could affect the value or desirability of the property. Coldwell Banker counters that Cortazzo owed Hori...