Square Footage Dispute Ends in Agent’s Favor

April 11, 2018

A jury in California ruled that a Coldwell Banker real estate agent did not breach his fiduciary duty in a case involving discrepancies in a home’s reported square footage. The case stems from a dispute that arose after Hong Kong millionaire Hiroshi Horiike purchased a Malibu mansion for $12.25 million in cash in 2007. Chris Cortazzo, the listing agent, provided Horiike with a flier that stated the home had 15,000 square feet of living space and an MLS listing that did not specify the square footage. 

Malibu uses a different metric to measure listings than other places do, including measurements of garages and other spaces beyond a primary residence when configuring square footage. 

Horiike purchased the property without further investigating the size of the home. But years later, he sought a permit to remodel his home and learned that it wasn’t as large as he originally thought. A building permit indicated there was 11,050 square feet, including a guest house and garage. A tax assessor’s record showed the home had less than 9,500 square feet. 

Both the buyer's agent, who represented Horiike, and the listing agent, Cortazzo, worked for Coldwell Banker. Horiike sued Cortazzo and Coldwell Banker, accusing them of violating their fiduciary duty to him. In court, the defense argued that Cortazzo was the exclusive agent for the seller and did not have a fiduciary duty to Horiike. A judge agreed and dismissed the case. But on appeal, the state Supreme Court ruled there was a fiduciary duty

During a March 19 retrial, Horiike sought $7.5 million to $8 million in damages over the square footage dispute. A jury with the Superior Court ruled on April 5 that Cortazzo did not breach a fiduciary duty to the buyer, nor did he intentionally or negligently misrepresent the property. 

“I am pleased with the court’s decision,” Cortazzo wrote in a statement through Coldwell Banker. “I operate with integrity and strive to uphold the highest of ethical standards. As always, I remain completely committed to my clients and bringing them a premier level of service.” 

Source: “Jury: Coldwell Banker Real Estate Agent Did Not Mislead Buyer in Mansion Dispute,” Orange County Register (April 5, 2018)