William Raveis Real Estate Inc. v. Brancale
Allegations that a seller "intended" to deprive a real estate broker of property in the form of a sales commission to which the real estate broker was entitled can be sufficient to allege statutory theft. The plaintiff real estate broker, William Raveis Real Estate, alleged that the defendant, Eileen Brancale, signed a list agreement, sold her property for $2.5 million and failed to pay all of the plaintiff's commission. At the closing, the parties allegedly discovered that there was not enough money, and the real estate broker's 5 percent sales commission was reduced, without prior notice or agreement. The plaintiff real estate broker sued, alleging breach of contract, statutory theft, conversion and unjust enrichment. The defendant seller moved to strike. The tort of conversion takes place when one assumes and exercises ownership over property that belongs to another, to the exclusion of the owner's rights, pursuant to Deming v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., a 2006 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Allegations that Brancale's attorney, with his client's consent, deposited funds from the buyer into his trustee account and did not pay the plaintiff real estate broker's 5 percent sales commission were sufficient to allege conversion. Statutory theft requires an intent to deprive another of his property. Money can be the subject of statutory theft. Allegations that the defendant "intended" to deprive the plaintiff real estate broker of property to which the plaintiff was entitled, as part of the sales commission, were sufficient to allege statutory theft. The court denied the defendant seller's motion to strike the plaintiff real estate broker's counts of conversion and statutory theft.