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Legal Memorandum: Duties of Agents

Issue: Whether there are Minnesota cases in which a real-estate agent’s negligence prevented the sale of a home and damages were awarded to the home owner?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Agent's duty to his or her principal; To exercise reasonable care, skill, and diligence
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 81 N.W.2d 265; 90 N.W.2d 193; 249 Minn. 32; 84 N.W. 660; 82 Minn. 154
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2006

No cases were found in which an agent’s negligence prevented the sale of the home or caused a foreclosure on the home.  Legally, however, a failure to market the property may be viewed a violation of an agent’s duty to his or her principal, or a violation of the standard of care the agent owes his or her principal.  These principles are described in detail in Witt v. John Blomquist, Inc., 249 Minn. 32, 81 N.W.2d 265 (1957).

The principles applicable in any agency contract of this kind are well established.  The agent is bound to exercise reasonable care, skill, and diligence in performing the transaction entrusted to him and is responsible for any loss resulting from his failure to do so.  Any action or omission by the agent in violation of the duties imposed upon him by his contract of employment render him responsible to his principal for any loss or damages sustained by the latter as a result.  In an action by a principal against his agent for violation of the agent’s duties, the principal can recover substantial damages, whether in tort or contract, only by establishing that such violation of duty caused him actual loss or that the violation resulted in the unjust enrichment of the agent.

Id. at 34, 81 N.W.2d at 266.  See also Olson v. Penkert, 252 Minn. 334, 342-43, 90 N.W.2d 193, 199, 200 (1958) (real estate agent is subject […]

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