Realtor.com vs. Zillow dispute - a post-mortem: Settle, settle, settle!

on June 21, 2016 by James T. Hunt, Jr.

You may recall I recently wrote about the ongoing and quite public litigation saga between Zillow and Realtor.com. In a nutshell, a top level Realtor.com executive, Errol Samuelson (Reatlor.com is owned by Move.com) quit and joined competitor Zillow, bringing along with him other high level executives, including Curtis Beardsley. Move.com quickly sued in order to stop the executives from working for Zillow and misappropriating any trade secrets obtained while working for Move.com/Realtor.com. Our prior blog post on this case discussed the allegations. You can read it here: http://www.tenagliahunt.com/zillow-trade-secret-theft-case-highlights-the-need-for-strong-noncompete-agreements-with-key-executives

Now, Zillow and Realtor.com recently decided to settle the dispute on the eve of a trial date. The main component of the settlement is that Zillow will pay Realtor.com a whopping $130 million dollars by June 20, 2016. So it got me to thinking about an old Jim Carrey movie l loved called “Liar Liar,” in which Jim Carrey plays an ethically challenged lawyer (cue the lawyer jokes here – some might say that’s a redundant statement). Jim Carrey’s character was very used to lying and deceiving almost everyone he came into contact with. Yet, his young son cast a truth-telling spell over him, such that Carrey’s character was forced to tell the truth at every turn. Of course, hilarity ensued. In one pivotal scene, Carrey is begging his difficult client, a snobbish divorcee, to accept the very reasonable settlement offer of $2.4 million that her now ex-husband had offered as alimony. Carrey’s character, knowing the spell he was under would force him to tell the truth in court in front of a judge and jury, and knowing the truth would ultimately sink his case, desperately tries to get his obstinate client to settle, yelling out loud, “SETTLE, SETTLE, SETTLE !!” I thought it was one of the funnier moments of a very funny movie. You can watch the clip of this scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1A3PYxOuT5E

Zillow and its attorneys appear to have taken a page from Jim Carrey’s character in Liar Liar. Seemingly over a barrel, as they say, given the facts disclosed during discovery, Zillow apparently believed it needed to fork over serious money to avoid an even larger damages award if it went to trial. Even in the corporate world, $130 million is no chump change. Look at it this way: Zillow reported real estate revenue of $136.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2015, and gross annual revenue of $679.9 million for 2015. Can you imagine taking one quarter’s worth of your gross revenue – 25% of your entire annual revenue – and handing it over to your most hated competitor ? It’s a sure indication that Zillow and its attorneys were likely just as desperate as Jim Carrey’s character to try and settle the case.

The attorneys at Tenaglia & Hunt, P.A., provide business clients with experienced legal representation. We handle many types of business disputes on behalf of corporate clients, including Fortune 500 Corporations and SMBs throughout New York, New Jersey, and nationally. We take an aggressive but professional approach and always seek creative ways to help our clients. To schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help your business, call us at (201) 820-6001 or (212) 692-0200.

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