Real estate franchisor RE/MAX and one of its franchisees have settled a lawsuit and countersuit in which each accused the other of violating the terms of their contracts in regards to agent recruiting.
In an August 2021 complaint, RE/MAX accused James E. Dulin II and his Carmel, Indiana-based company, The Hamilton Group, of violating the terms of four franchise agreements for RE/MAX offices in Indiana by allegedly recruiting 41 agents to eXp Realty while still under contract with RE/MAX. The four offices did business as RE/MAX Ability Plus.
At the time, Dulin’s agreement with RE/MAX for the West Clay, Indiana, office was days away from expiring, while the agreement for the Carmel office expired a month later. The other two agreements, for the Lafayette and Lebanon offices, weren’t set to expire until August 2023 and November 2024, respectively. In a second amended complaint, RE/MAX sought declaratory relief — an order from the court saying the Lafayette and Lebanon franchise agreements were still in effect and obligating Dulin to abide by them.
Shortly before RE/MAX filed suit against Dulin, RE/MAX and eXp settled a lawsuit over agent recruiting. In that particular suit, RE/MAX accused eXp of targeting RE/MAX franchise owners to abandon their franchises, arguing that eXp was trying to recruit people who could not legally be recruited.
Neither eXp nor any of its agents were defendants in the suit against Dulin, however. Rather, RE/MAX’s complaint alleged Dulin told eXp that he was interested in joining eXp with his team, but eXp told Dulin that he could not because he remained under contract with RE/MAX, which allegedly lead to Dulin coming up with an elaborate scheme to join eXp indirectly, first through his wife and then through a colleague.
In a February 2022 countersuit, Dulin alleged RE/MAX allowed other RE/MAX franchises to recruit away his agents in violation of its own Predatory Recruiting Policy in its franchise agreements. The countersuit also alleged a noncompete clause in RE/MAX’s franchise agreements effectively locks brokers with multiple RE/MAX offices into the franchise perpetually.
Dulin’s countersuit asked the court to declare that the Lebanon agreement had been terminated and that RE/MAX’s noncompete clauses are invalid and unenforceable and to find that the staggered terms of the franchise agreements constitute restraint of trade and unfair practices.
Earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning permanently, noting that each party would pay their own attorneys’ fees and costs. The parties notified the court in August that they had reached a settlement to resolve all claims in the litigation. The filing did not include any further details about what the settlement entailed.
“The parties have reached a mutually satisfactory resolution,” a RE/MAX spokesperson told Inman in an emailed statement.
Both RE/MAX and Dulin confirmed that Dulin is no longer affiliated with RE/MAX. Dulin remains a licensed real estate broker, but his license is affiliated with several companies under the state’s licensing website.
“I have not made a move as of yet, for now I hold my own license but I plan to affiliate soon,” Dulin told Inman in an emailed statement. “As to the outcome, I’m pleased to have this process behind me and I look forward to my future plans.”
According to the website for Indianapolis-based multiple listing service MIBOR, Dulin has 12 active rental listings associated with him as a broker for RE/MAX Ability Plus, but the brokerage website that MIBOR profile links to, Indianapolis-Homes.com, is dead.
RE/MAX itself also continues to display Dulin as one of its brokers on its website, though the personal website that RE/MAX profile links to, jimmydulin.com, is also dead. Dulin’s LinkedIn profile lists him simply as an “entrepreneur” and the website the profile links to, abilityplus.com, is likewise dead.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from RE/MAX and Dulin.