Article Courtesy of The Florida Record
By Charmaine Little
Published May 29, 2017
PALM BEACH COUNTY — A 93-year-old woman in Florida has
partially won a property dispute against her real estate agents, according
to an opinion from Florida's 4th District Court of Appeal.
Margaret Ann Trevarthen filed a complaint against Charles E. Wilson, a real
estate sales associate for the broker firm Bob Jackson Inc. Trevarthen
accused Wilson of exploitation and abuse when he allegedly used her money
for his own benefit, including buying a condominium with the funds from a
trust. She also filed the claim against the firm for “vicarious liability”
and “direct liability,” saying that the company was at fault because it
didn’t monitor how Wilson spent money earned from his commission.
Trevarthen said she met Wilson through another sales associate at the firm,
according to court records. Wilson said he would help sell the condominium
that she had at that time, Unit 704. As part of the agreement, she would
give him some of the money made from the sale. She then gave him power of
attorney so he could renovate the unit.
According to court records, “Wilson failed to consider (Trevarthen’s) cost
basis when calculating his share of the proceeds.” Wilson and the firm still
received a commission from that sale. Wilson allegedly then told Trevarthen
to buy another condo, Unit 304. Wilson and the firm received a commission on
that unit, as well. According to the claim, Wilson “convinced” Trevarthen to
buy yet another condominium that he could repair and sell, which he and the
firm also received a commission for. This time, Trevarthen lost money in the
sale. She alleges that Wilson used her money to buy his own condominium
under the name of a trust he had. The broker firm was the sales agent, and
the owner, Bob Jackson, as well as the company, received a commission on
The company said there was wrongdoing when it came to working with
Trevarthen and that Wilson’s actions were “outside the scope of his work on
behalf of (the Brokerage Firm).”
Evidence submitted authenticated the firm’s statement that Jackson knew
about Wilson being Trevarthen’s power of attorney. During the sale of Unit
304, Wilson took $300,000 from Trevarthen’s account and put it in the firm’s
escrow. The company refused to accept it until a contract was made, and he
gave Trevarthen the money back the following day. According to court
documents, Wilson created the trust after Jackson advised him to and Jackson
admitted that Wilson said he “was borrowing” money from Trevarthen. Jackson
allegedly did not want to get involved.
The court allowed the firm’s motion for summary judgment.
The appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision for the vicarious
liability count, which states, “A principal may not accept the benefits of a
transaction negotiated by the agent and disavow the obligations in the same
The court said the firm erred when it used its commission and Trevarthen’s
money to buy real estate. But the firm confirmed the circuit court’s
decision for summary judgment in the direct liability count because the firm
was not responsible by contract to make sure Trevarthen wasn’t taken
advantage of financially.