In The Court of Appeals

Don Wise, Individually & Don Wise Realty, Inc.        Respondents,


William T. Jarrell,        Appellant.

Appeal From Florence County
Paul M. Burch, Circuit Court Judge

Unpublished Opinion No. 2003-UP-418
Heard April 8, 2003 – Filed June 19, 2003


Daryl James Corbin, of Florence, for Respondent.

J. Rene Josey and David W. Keller, Jr., for Appellant.

PER CURIAM:  William T. Jarrell appeals a jury verdict, finding Jarrell failed to pay Don Wise a sales commission due under a real estate broker’s contract.  Jarrell argues the trial court erred in denying his motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict (“JNOV”), asserting a reasonable jury could not have found Wise was the procuring cause of Jarrell’s real estate purchase.  We affirm.


Jarrell contacted Wise and indicated he wanted to purchase commercial property with specific characteristics in a particular geographic area.  In exchange for Wise’s assistance, Jarrell agreed to pay Wise a 10% commission on the sale price of any property purchased.  Wise compiled property information and obtained aerial maps of the particular area of interest to Jarrell.  Using this information, Wise drove Jarrell to visit several potential commercial property sites.  While visiting several properties, including the Powers’ Property, Jarrell instructed Wise to make an offer on one piece of property.

After negotiations on that property failed, Wise drove Jarrell to the area and again showed Jarrell the Powers’ Property, which had a “for sale” sign on it.  Wise specifically discussed the Powers’ Property’s dimensions and suitability.  When Wise later contacted Jarrell about another piece of property, Jarrell informed Wise he intended to purchase the Powers’ Property.  Wise informed Jarrell that Wise considered himself to be the procuring cause of the sale and told Jarrell he expected to be paid a 10% commission.  Wise later discovered David Townsend purchased the Powers’ Property for $385,000.00, held it for one year and transferred it to Jarrell.

Wise sued Jarrell alleging Jarrell breached the sales commission contract by failing to pay Wise the 10% sales commission.  At trial, Jarrell admitted he actually paid for the Powers’ Property but had it titled in Townsend’s name for tax purposes.  He further testified he could not remember whether he had discussed purchasing the Powers’ Property with the owner before Wise brought it to his attention.  At the close of Wise’s case, Jarrell moved for directed verdict, arguing a reasonable jury could not find Wise was the procuring cause of the purchase.  The trial court denied the motion and submitted the case to the jury.  The jury found Jarrell breached the contract and awarded Wise 10% of the purchase price of the Powers’ Property, or $38,500.00.  Jarrell moved for JNOV, and the trial court denied the motion.  Jarrell appeals.


Jarrell argues the trial court erred in failing to grant his motions for directed verdict and JNOV.  Specifically, Jarrell contends a reasonable jury could not have found he was the procuring cause of the real estate purchase.  We disagree.

When ruling on motions for directed verdict and JNOV, the trial court must “view the evidence and the inferences that reasonably can be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motions.”  Saab v. South Carolina State Univ., 350 S.C. 416, 428, 567 S.E.2d 231, 236 (2002).  “The trial court must deny the motions when the evidence yields more than one inference or its inference is in doubt.”  Id.  This Court will reverse the trial court’s rulings only where no evidence exists to support the ruling or the ruling is controlled by an error of law.  Hinkle v. Nat’l Cas. Ins. Co., Op. No. 25626 (S.C. Sup. Ct. filed April 14, 2003) (Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 13 at 42, 45).

Our supreme court has clearly established the test for determining whether a real estate broker is entitled to a sales commission.

[T]he rule of reason, which seems to be supported by practically all the authorities on the subject, is that the broker is entitled to his commissions, if during the continuance of his agency, he is the efficient or procuring cause of the sale, though the actual agreement for the sale is made by the owner without the aid of the broker; and the broker will be regarded the procuring cause if his intervention is the foundation upon which the negotiation resulting in the sale is begun.

Goldsmith v. Coxe, 80 S.C. 341, 346-47, 61 S.E. 555, 557 (1908).

Taken in a light most favorable to Wise, a review of the record reveals sufficient evidence from which a jury could have found Wise’s intervention was the foundation for Jarrell’s negotiation and eventual purchase of the Powers’ Property.

Jarrell contacted Wise and told him to find properties in a particular area with certain characteristics.  As instructed, Wise compiled information regarding properties fitting these criteria, including the Powers’ Property.  On several occasions, Wise brought Jarrell to view the Powers’ Property and specifically discussed the property’s dimensions and suitability.  Jarrell could not recall whether he ever discussed purchasing the Powers’ Property with the owner prior to being shown the property by Wise.

Furthermore, after being brought to the property, Jarrell did not tell Wise he was already familiar with the Powers’ Property and its owner or would independently pursue any potential negotiations without Wise’s assistance.  Jarrell never indicated Wise would not be paid a commission if Jarrell purchased the Powers’ Property.  Subsequently, Jarrell used his funds to pay for the Powers’ Property, had it titled in Townsend’s name, and instructed required Townsend transfer the property to Jarrell one year later.

Based on this evidence, we conclude a reasonable jury could have found Wise’s intervention was the foundation of Jarrell’s negotiation and purchase of the Powers’ Property.  See id.


For the foregoing reasons, the jury’s verdict, awarding Wise a sales commission of $38,500.00 is


STILWELL, HOWARD, JJ., and STROM, Acting Judge, concur.