Ask Redweek / July 2015
Timeshare owners often claim they were lied to during sales presentations. Do timeshare owners have any hope of winning lawsuits against big-budget developers?
There a handful of legal cases around the country where owners and timeshare companies are at odds over contracts, reservations, and promises made during sales presentations. Here are the details on two recent cases that are reverberating throughout the industry.
Why This Timeshare Lawsuit Has A Strong Case
Despite only being able to offer licensing to use the timeshare properties , told potential buyers they could purchase a title that included interest in a land trust. In reality, the new points program simply gave owners access to condos that were held in the land trust. Throughout all marketing efforts, Marriott placed value on owning more points to gain even more access. This led buyers to believe the opportunity was valuable. By positioning the product this way, Marriott was able to not only charge buyers for points programs, but also closing costs, title policy premiums, real estate tax and recording fees.
Over the course of the buyers ownership experience, it appears Marriott did a poor job of providing transparency regarding the purchase. Although the points program wasnt illegal itself, should have never charged buyers for something theyd never be able to acquire. After the purchase, members of the lawsuit claim they never really understood what they paid for. Even the ownership percentage of their trust fluctuated on a daily basis.
While Marriott was able to manipulate the system for quite some time, buyers eventually grew tired of the lack of disclosure. They decided that filing the Marriott Vacation Club class action lawsuit was the only way they could escape the scheme. Amongst a plethora of complicated evidence against the hotel chain, allegations essentially stemmed from the initial point of sale.
A Brief Outline Of The Marriott Vacation Club Destination Program Case
A class action lawsuit was filed alleging Marriott Ownership Resorts, Inc. and International Cruise & Excursion Gallery, Inc. engaged in unfair and deceptive conduct in hiding the true cost of cruises offered to consumers in exchange for points allocated to them as a result of their purchase of memberships in a timeshare business concept offered for sale by Marriott Ownership Resorts Settlement of the litigation was reached, and in February 23, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida granted preliminary approval of the settlement.
Per the Class Notice, Defendants agreed to provide certain remuneration to class members who file claims, including Cash, Exchange Program PlusPoints, and Gift Cards, to settle existing claims related to allegations in the lawsuit.
At this time, the proposed settlement between all parties has yet to garner formal approval from the courts, which is expected to occur at the August 3, 2018 final settlement approval hearing before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
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Timeshare Owners Hit Marriott With Sanctions Bid
Timeshare owners have asked a Florida federal court to sanction Marriott Ownership Resorts Inc. in a proposed class action claiming the timeshare company and its insurer duped them into invalid real estate deals with Orange County’s help, saying it intentionally withheld “massive amounts” of documents during discovery.
The owners, led by named plaintiffs Anthony and Beth Lennen, argued in their Thursday motion against Marriott Ownership Resorts and affiliate Marriott Vacation Club Trust Owners Association Inc. that sanctions are appropriate because they allegedly acted in bad faith when withholding documents. Discovery should be reopened and the Marriott companies should be compelled to produce relevant documents, according to the motion.
The defendants should be sanctioned because they intentionally and unreasonably failed to produce relevant and material documents identified in their initial disclosures and requested by plaintiffs, failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the existence of responsive documents, delayed delivery of a significant portion of their overall production of documents until the last day of discovery while simultaneously arguing against an extension of discovery as requested by plaintiffs and falsely represented that they had fully complied with discovery obligations, the owners said.
Jeffrey M. Norton, a lawyer for the Lennens, declined to comment Friday, saying the sanctions motion speaks for itself.
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Class Members Must Act Before May 21st To Preserve All Their Legal Rights They Must Also File Claims By June 20 2018
Obtaining Cash, Exchange Program PlusPoints, or Gift Cards from the settlement requires filing a claim by June 20, 2018. Class members who fail to do so will not receive remuneration from the settlement.
Claimants Must Respond Urgently to the Pending Final Settlement Approval. Read below to learn more.
How To Get Rid Of A Marriott Timeshare
Are you an unhappy Marriott timeshare owner? Searching for a way to get rid of a Marriott timeshare?
Its easy to forget that signing up for a timeshare also means agreeing to a long-term commitment. Some timeshares can last 20 years, others a lifetime! And as life continues, owning a timeshare may not be a priority anymore. The locations get boring, and the kids get older, maintenance fees continue to rise.
In short, you need a way to get rid of a Marriott timeshare now! If youve recently purchased a Marriott timeshare, the good news is, youve come to the right place. So start reaping the benefits today! To learn more about how to get rid of a Marriott timeshare legally, read the sections below. Or you can initiate a Live Chat to learn more through a free personalized consultation. We can help you find the best solution ideal for your timeshare situation.
My Marriott Vacation Club
In 1927, J. Willard Marriott first founded what we know today as Marriott Vacations Worldwide. Whats interesting is the brand didnt necessarily begin in the vacation industry. In fact, it wasnt involved in the vacation industry at all!
It all started with a 9 seater A& W root beer stand known as The Hot Shoppe. Mr. Marriott and his wife Alice got the business off the ground and ran it until 1956. Then 1 year later, the company made a historic shift that would change the brand forever.
Can I Sell My Marriott Vacation Club Membership?
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Engineering The Law: Marriott Vacations Worldwide’s Class
As a lawsuit against Marriott Vacations wound its way through the courts, the company and the timeshare industry tried to undermine the suit by getting the Legislature to change the law that provided the basis for the suit.
In the spring of 2016, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, which books more than $600 million a year in timeshare sales, was hit with a class-action lawsuit. The lead plaintiffs were Anthony and Beth Lennen, a couple from Shelbyville, Ind. The Lennens had bought time at Marriotts Crystal Shores resort on Marco Island a few years earlier. They owned two weeks in the oceanfront tower one in January and another in August.
Thats how most timeshares used to be sold in increments of time, usually a week, tied to a specific resort on specific dates. In recent years, however, the industry has developed a new business model. Most firms now sell timeshares as points that owners purchase. Instead of owning a specific week at a specific property, the owners can redeem their points throughout the year at a variety of locations.
It is also, according to the Lennens lawsuit, a sham.
The suit, filed in federal court in Orlando, targets a variety of Marriott subsidiaries and a third-party title insurer. The suit is complex the original complaint is 639 paragraphs long and alleges 21 counts of wrongdoing, including three violations of the RICO Act, the law initially created to prosecute organized crime.
Ga Resort Condominium Association Inc V Ilg Llc Et Al
D. Colo. Case No. 19-CV-01870-RM
The Hyatt Grand Aspen was supposed to be the crown jewel of a network of luxury fractional timeshare properties within the Hyatt Residence Club. Hundreds paid premium prices for fractionals at the Hyatt Grand Aspen, which entitled them to specific weeks each year in Aspen as well as access to the other properties in the club. But the Hyatt entities that initially developed and ran this offering kept 20% of the fractionals unsold, and their successors ILG and Marriott Vacations Worldwide used that inventory to create a new points-based timeshare product. Defendants abandoned the initial offering, gutting the value of the original fractional interests. Hired by the fractional owners association, we filed a lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, among other claims. . See also this article in The Aspen Times.
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Class Action Lawsuit Allegations
Lead plaintiffs Daniel Finerman and Donna Devino filed a class action lawsuitFinerman, et al. v. Marriott Ownership Resorts, Inc., et al.in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida on behalf of Vacation Club members who paid inflated cruise port fees.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleged:
- Co-defendants Marriott and International Cruise & Excursion Gallery hid the true cost of a cruise by creating, inflating, and collecting deceptively exaggerated port fees.
- Members were not told when booking their cruises using points that their points would not cover the costs of the cruise and that they would be required to pay for part of the fare with cash under the deceptive and misleading label port fees.
- Defendants profited from deceptive and inflated port fees.
Summary Of The Terms Of The Proposed Marriott Vacation Club Destinations Exchange Program Class Action Settlement
The class notice indicates that Defendants have agreed to provide certain remuneration to class members who file claims, including Cash, Exchange Program PlusPoints, and Gift Cards. Defendants have agreed to pay attorneys fees awarded to class counsel, while reserving the right to object to class counsels request for attorneys fees to the extent the request exceeds $3,000,000. In addition, Defendants have agreed to pay Settlement Administration and Notice Administration costs.
These and other provisions are set forth in the settlement agreement.
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Cruises For Marriott Vacation Club Destinations Program Members
The settlement agreement provides class members with reimbursements for a portion of the money they paid toward cruise bookings. Class members may receive either:
- a 50% cash refund of the cruise lines non-commissionable fare,
- Exchange Program PlusPoints for 75% of the cash value of the cruise lines non-commissionable fare, or
- 75% of the cash value in an ICE-branded Gift Card that can be redeemed online.
In addition, the companies agreed to change the Exchange Program to allow members to use points to pay for the total cost of cruises and to include any non-commissionable fees in the cruise fare amount on booking confirmations.
Who Can File A Claim
In February 2018, Marriott and International Cruise & Excursion Gallery agreed to settle the cruise fare class action lawsuit.
The settlement covers members of the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations Exchange Program who booked a cruise through the program between January 1, 2010 and February 23, 2018.
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Exclusive Brand And Privileges For Premium Prices
The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club was established in 1999 as an equity-based, luxury vacation program that sold 1/12 fractional ownership interests. The club was distinct from and considerably more high-end than the Marriott Vacation Club,. Owners of these fractional interests had the exclusive privilege of booking stays in other Ritz-Carlton Destination Club properties. This exclusivity and the Ritz-Carlton brand were, in large part, what made the fractional ownership interests more expensive than ownership interests in the Marriott Vacation Club.
In 2001, the Ritz-Carlton brand established a fractional ownership property in Aspen, Colorado. Beginning in 2001, approximately 800 buyers paid premium prices ranging from $200,000 to $400,000 for fractional interests at the Ritz-Carlton Destination Club in Aspen.
Co Conspirators Labeled In Marriott Lawsuit
Although the original Marriott lawsuit was dismissed, class members believe a number of entities aided the timeshare conglomerate out of selfish gain and negligence. The Lennens have been especially vocal about the involvement of Orange County and First American Financial Corporation in the scheme. Both were being accused of illegally recording deeds and arranging titles that benefit the timeshare resort.
According to the Lennens, they should never be on the hook for property ownership costs if they do not own a true share of the property and the benefits that come with ownership. They believe the product is nothing more than a license to use selected corporate-owned timeshare estates in various locations across the country, they said.
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What About The Owners This Lawsuit Left Behind
While a lawsuit is good news for some owners, many still find themselves left with nowhere to turn once they realize they have been scammed out of thousands. They may be outside their rescission period, or unsure of the company was really at fault. Many of our clients describe a stressful, emotional sales process, full of promises they thought for years would come true, but never did. This lawsuit may fix some of these issues, but we still hear very often that sales reps are still lying to make sales.
For instance, sales reps used the merger between Marriott and Starwood to pressure owners into buying so they wouldnt lose out on the new changes to come. They also said the money put toward owners existing contracts would be worthless without an upgrade. Among many other lies, buyers were told:
- They could refinance their loans, especially with a good credit score. However, after buying, they found out their bank was not willing to refinance anything.*
- Marriott would happily buy back their timeshare if need be, to keep the value of their properties up for other owners, when that wasnt true at all.*
- They were getting the best price available to military veterans. This is a lie. Those who have served in the military can enjoy much cheaper vacations through the Armed Forces Vacation Club.*
- Paying their maintenance fees early would earn them bonus points. This is just not true.**
Properties Are Often Unavailable And Owners Can Be Locked Into Generational Contracts That Make It Impossible To Sell On
Disney Vacation Club’s Bay Lake Tower in Florida overlooks Walt Disney World. The 15-storey resort is a timeshare property and offers ‘home-like conveniences’ for families. Courtesy of Disney
When Ellen Callis, a 68-year-old retired high school teacher from Phoenix, Arizona, first dipped her toes into the timeshare property market in August 2008, she was helping a colleague who was experiencing financial difficulties.
After investing in a second property in 2013, Ms Callis now says she has buyers remorse she is one of a growing number of timeshare owners desperate to quit burdensome contracts that extract hefty fees even when properties are unavailable to use.
“I am loath to add up how much I lost overall,” Ms Callis tells The National.
“Neither was an investment my investments are to make money, not toss it to the wind. I purchased pipe dreams of spending good times with family or friends, not investments.”
Ms Callis paid her former colleague about $3,000 for the timeshare property at the Wyndham Vacation Resort in the town of Flagstaff, 240 kilometres from her home and best known as the training base for Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Charles Duke before they landed on the Moon in 1969.
Sedona seemed like an attractive place to enjoy a vacation, especially during the autumn apple-picking season, she says.
Wyndham Vacation Resorts did not respond to requests for comment.
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Helman Et Al V Marriott International Inc Et Al
D.V.I. Case No. 19-CV-00036-CVG
This little RICO class action is the latest and largest case amongst the firms prior litigation concerning Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporations misconduct in merging the exclusive Ritz-Carlton Destination Club with the much larger, cheaper, and points-based Marriott Vacation Club. We filed a class action complaint on behalf of nearly 1,000 purchasers of fractional interests at the Ritz-Carlton Great Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Destination Club in the Virgin Islands. Defendants, including Marriott International, knew that they could not merge the Ritz-Carlton Great Bay with the Marriott Vacation Club without an affirmative vote of fractional owners, a vote that they were not likely to win. So, among other wrongful conduct, Defendants manufactured a financial crisis by slow-walking foreclosures in breach of their fiduciary obligations and then marketed the merger of the two clubs as the solution to the manufactured crisis. .
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