Marketing company sues realtors for interfering with business contracts

Michelle Keahey, East Texas Bureau Apr. 30, 2012, 8:00am


SHERMAN - A real estate marketing company has filed a lawsuit accusing two Texas realtors of interfering with its business relationship.

Owners Advantage, doing business as, filed suit against Jeff Ashby, doing business as The Best Choice Realty, and Sandra Dean, also known as Sandi Dean Andrews, on April 9 in the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division.

Owners Advantage customers are prospective home sellers who desire assistance with marketing their properties. It is not a licensed real estate broker, but maintains business relationships with licensed real estate brokers in all 50 states, according to the suit. For the past two years, the defendants have maintained a business partnership with Owners Advantage and has been matched with approximately 1,100 home sellers in Texas and other states.

According to the lawsuit, Ashby has requested that Owners Advantage make Ashby its exclusive business partner in Texas, which Owners Advantage has refused.

In late 2011, Ashby and Dean started submitting complaints against Owners Advantage and its business partners to the Texas Real Estate Commission and other state regulators.

Owners Advantage argues that the complaints contain false and misleading statements.

As a result of the complaints, Owners Advantage has been accused of practicing real estate services without a license.

In early 2012, the defendants allegedly provided a reporter with copies of TREC's letters and had an article published regarding the investigation.

Owners Advantage states that in a recent telephone conversation, Ashby said he "could cause the pending complaints to be eliminated if Owners made Ashby its exclusive broker in Texas."

Owners Advantage lawyers sent Ashby a cease and desist letter a few days later. A second cease and desist letter was sent after about a month.

The plaintiff states that Ashby's and Dean's complaints have resulted in approximately 300 hours spent researching and replying to the documents.

In addition, the plaintiff states that the complaints have taken an immeasurable toll on company morale and have distracted employees from managing the business and attending to high priority projects.

Ashby is accused of retaliating against Owners Advantage because of the company's refusal to make him its exclusive business partner in Texas.

The defendants are also accused of abuse of process, tortious interference with existing contract, and business disparagement.

Owners Advantage states that the cost of defending the complaints in each state will exceed $100,000.

The plaintiff is asking the court for an injunction to restrain the defendants from further complaints and an award of money damages against Ashby and Dean for lost profits, costs, expenses and attorney's fees.

Owners Advantage is represented by Russell J. DePalma and Grant Walsh of FSB FisherBroyles in Dallas and Michael H. Erdman of Teeple Leonard & Erdman in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Ron Clark is assigned to the case.

Case No. 4:12-cv-00200

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