This is just an unfortunate turn of events, all around.
In a nutshell, a real estate agent was working with a buyer (no contract, however) on Nantucket. They saw many homes, including one on the market for $15.5 million. They saw it twice. Within days of seeing it a second time (well, seeing the outside, the buyer never actually went into the house), the buyer put in an offer on the property – but directly through the seller’s agent, therefore bypassing the buyer’s agent.
Not surprisingly, the buyer’s agent sued for his commission – all $300,000 of it (he had negotiated a lower than usual commission with the buyer, before she blew him off).
In a situation like this, the buyer and the seller have nothing to worry about – they can close and be done with it. The issue is between the two agents, exclusively.
It comes down to deciding who was the "procuring cause" – who was the agent that was most responsible for the buyer deciding to buy.
On paper, it sure looks like the buyer’s agent has a case.
Even if the buyer decided at some point that she didn’t want to work with her agent, her agent was still the one responsible for introducing her to the property.
The seller’s agent should be required to pay the buyer’s agent the commission.
Lesson to be learned: Always get a buyer’s agency contract signed by any buyer and agent. The contract can be written so that either side can cancel it, at any time, but it should make clear that if the buyer’s agent introduces you to a property, the agent is due a commission.
Complete article: Realtors Duke it Out Over Commissions – by James R. Hagerty, The Wall Street Journal