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Real Estate

Melick & Porter Secures Summary Judgment for Rhode Island Client in Real Estate Professional Liability Claim

Melick & Porter Partner Syd Saloman obtained summary judgment on behalf of a real estate agency in a professional liability claim in Newport County Superior Court. The claim arose out of a bidding war for an exclusive waterfront condominium in Newport. Attorney Saloman represented the real estate agency and brokers that acted as the listing agent for the condominium seller. Shortly after listing the property, two interested parties made offers to purchase through their respective real estate agents. This led to a bidding war that culminated in the seller accepting one of the offers and ultimately conveying the condominium to that party. The unsuccessful bidder brought suit against the seller’s real estate agent, the seller, the buyer’s real estate agent and the buyer. With respect to the seller’s agent, the plaintiff alleged that the real estate agency and its brokers orally accepted one of their offers to purchase on behalf of the seller, and otherwise acted improperly while negotiating with the other agents, thereby depriving the plaintiff of a fair opportunity to purchase the property. Attorney Saloman moved for summary judgment and argued that because the sellers did not accept any of the plaintiff’s offers to purchase in writing, the Statute of Frauds precluded all theories of liability advanced by the plaintiff.

The Court granted summary judgment to Melick & Porter’s client, observing that the plaintiff’s complaint constituted a novel attempt to circumvent the Statute of Frauds. The Court’s ruling demonstrates that the application of the Statute of Frauds will bar claims based on attempts to enforce oral agreements that should be reduced to writing, even where such claims are cloaked in creative theories of liability. The Court also noted the strong public policy that favored enforcing the Statute of Frauds and avoiding the floodgates of litigation that would ensue if parties were permitted to bring civil actions to enforce oral agreements to purchase real estate.

Please do not hesitate to contact Melick & Porter if you have questions pertaining to professional liability.