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This telephone call more or less started with a question … “Can my auctioneer just walk away?” “Quit?” My answer after getting more information was, “Probably.”

Auctioneers are agents for their sellers. As such, they can renunciate (quit, give up) their appointed duties. As attorney Lee D. Stimmel notes on his blog, while there may be other issues to consider, basically an auctioneer could, “walk away.” https://www.stimmel-law.com/en/articles/agency-basic-law

Specifically, Mr. Stimmel says:

Ordinarily, an agent may renounce the agency relationship by expressly notifying the principal, either orally or in writing. An agent’s cessation of all relations with the principal, and abandonment by the agent may be treated as a renunciation. However, mere violation of instructions by the agent will not amount to renunciation and may expose the agent to liability for breach of duty.

In situations such as this when the auctioneer basically says, “I’m out of here …” there are probably better structured solutions. Maybe sit down with your seller and explain the situation, and even propose a solution such as an another auctioneer taking over, for example.

As well, there could be contracted duties and related unfinished business which could amount to damages; such harm could result in litigation. As such, mutual assent is a much better basis for terminating an agency relationship.

Further, it would be ill-advised to stop being someone’s auctioneer at a material part of the auction process — for example, marketing the auction, setting up all the property, opening the auction and then walking away would constitute nearly unconscionable behavior.

An argument in court might ask if the “walked-away-auctioneer” provided the standard of care found in the auction industry. I can answer that — walking away is below the normal standard and we wrote about the standard of care here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2019/01/09/auctioneers-and-the-standard-of-care/

In summary, if you are a seller and your auctioneer quits sometime before the auction is complete and settled, it’s likely he or she can do that, but you have the possibility of pursuing damages (especially if it’s complete but never settled) if indeed you are harmed by that specific action.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.