Pending Actions Against Timeshare Developers
In the past year, hundreds of consumers and over a dozen former timeshare employees have risen up to vindicate their rights by bringing claims against timeshare developers.
Whistleblower Lawsuits Against Developers
CHRISTOPER LAPPING v. WYNDHAM VACATION OWNERSHIP, et al.
CASE # 2:18-cv-571411 | US DISTRICT COURT, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Christopher Lapping, represented by attorney Edward M. Higginbotham, brought this whistleblower lawsuit against Wyndham and two of its sales managers alleging that Wyndham retaliated against him after he filed a written complaint to the developer’s human resources department about Wyndham’s sales practices.
Lapping is a 10-year army veteran who worked as a Wyndham sales representative for several years. Lapping claims in his lawsuit that Wyndham fired him after he refused to participate in Wyndham’s alleged illegal and fraudulent sales practices, which he claims were targeted at senior citizens.
In the Complaint, Lapping alleges that Wyndham supervisors instructed him and other sales representatives to sell prospective customers timeshares they could not afford, to deceive them about the cost of the timeshares, and to deceive them about how they might return the timeshares to Wyndham if they wanted Wyndham to take the interest back. Lapping alleges that Wyndham trained its sales representatives to lie to potential customers, including the elderly.
The Complaint additionally alleges that Wyndham, Lapping’s direct supervisor, Wyndham manager Matthew Muro, and Wyndham’s Northern California Regional Vice President, Derek Mulholland, altered credit applications on behalf of prospective customers so that they would qualify to purchase Wyndham timeshares that they could not actually afford.
DULENE AMILCAR, et al. v. WYNDHAM VACATION OWNERSHIP
CASE # 18-008241 | CIRCUIT COURT SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT, PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA
Amilcar v. Wyndham is a mass whistleblower lawsuit in which ten former Wyndham sales representatives and other staff, represented by attorneys Wil Florin and Thomas Roebig, Jr., allege that Wyndham retaliated against them for objecting to and/or refusing to participate in Wyndham’s unlawful, unethical, and fraudulent sales practices, including practicing real estate without a license, confusing and misleading buyers or wearing them down so they would buy property, misdirecting buyers to points charts that depicted false information, advising buyers that a Wyndham timeshare is an investment and its value would increase over time, instructing buyers that the property was “not a timeshare,” misrepresenting to buyers the effect of completing a credit application, altering buyers’ income level on their credit application, advising buyers that Wyndham would buy back their property, preying upon the elderly, misrepresenting the nature of a Club Wyndham Access purchase, overselling timeshares resulting in many owners not being able to use their timeshare due to overbooking, advising owners (and especially the elderly) to purchase more points and keep making the same monthly loan payment while paying off their loan, when in actuality, Wyndham simply extended the repayment term, and instructing sales representatives to “do whatever they have to do” to close deals, even if it was unlawful or unethical.
The complaint includes state whistleblower claims and negligent supervision and retention, and contains prayers for back pay and benefits, front pay and/or lost earning capacity, emotional distress damages, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages.
Pending Timeshare Owner Actions Against Westgate
MARILYN MOORE, et al. v. WESTGATE RESORTS, LTD
CASE # 3:19-CV-00079| US DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE (PROPOSED CLASS ACTION)
In Moore v. Westgate, ten representative timeshare owners, represented by attorneys Mark Chalos, John Belcher, Wayne Ritchie, II, and Richard Wallace, allege on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated timeshare owners that Westgate’s high-pressure scheme to sell “floating use” plans for Westgate’s Smoky Mountain Resort’s timeshares involves convincing prospective purchasers to buy into its vacation timeshare program while failing to disclose to buyers legally required information that was contained in a “secret pocket” of a portfolio that Westgate provides to purchasers. The plaintiffs each allege that Westgate fails to provide purchasers with adequate access to their timeshares.
Timeshare owners Ryan and Laura Spado allege that in 2008 they paid $10,000 down plus a $450 yearly maintenance fee for what Westgate represented was a unit with a balcony, and a right to use for one week every other year. When they attempted to reserve the unit in 2010, however, they allege Westgate told them if they wanted a balcony, they would have to pay for an upgrade. This time, they paid $6,500 and a $650 annual maintenance fee, again, with a right to use for one week every other year. Westgate convinced them to upgrade again in 2012, after Westgate confirmed they were purchasing specific units with specific floor plans to accommodate their growing family. This time, they paid $9,888 plus an $800 annual maintenance fee, again, with a right to use for one week every other year. Nonetheless, the Spados allege they were frequently unable to reserve the timeshare with the specified floor plan. When they visited the resort in 2016, they allege they were unable to reserve the specified floor plan. Worse yet, they allege they were harassed to upgrade yet again, and when they refused, Westgate “threatened them with eviction from their unit and informed them that they would stay in a motel the next time they visited Galinburg.” The other eight plaintiffs similarly allege that they were not able to use the timeshares they purchased as they reasonably expected, even after agreeing to being upsold, based on the resort’s alleged practice of overselling the units.
The complaint cites to the award-winning documentary, the Queen of Versailles, in which Westgate Resorts Vice President Richard Siegel was captured on film telling sales agents to “lie” in order to complete a sale: “You should own at least one week yourselves—and if you don’t, lie and say you do! Don’t let these people leave here without buying something! Something!” he said.
In the film, Siegel goes on to state, “100% of the people we are talking to are—it’s not a nice word, but we call ‘em mooches. They’re coming in for a sales presentation on their vacation for a free gift. So we train our sales people on how to take someone greedy like that and get them to buy today. We do 100% of our sales on the first day….They will not buy today if they don’t get a ‘great deal’ [making air quotes]—if they don’t believe that they’re getting a great deal….Timesharing you sell every unit 52 times because you sell it by the week.”
The timeshare owners claim fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of fair dealing, civil conspiracy, and violation of the Tennessee Timeshare Act. A jury trial has been set for February 8, 2021.
KEITH & MIRANDA BRANNON v. WESTGATE RESORTS, LTD
CASE # 6:19-cv-01750 | US DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA (PROPOSED CLASS ACTION)
Brannon v. Westgate Resorts is a proposed class action brought on behalf of owners of Westgate’s Branson Lakes Resort timeshares by Keith and Miranda Brannon of Greenwood, Arkansas, through their attorneys Brendan McNeal of the Edgar Law Firm in Kansas City, Missouri and William Cash, III of Levin Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, PA, in Pensacola, Florida. They claim that Westgate violates the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by “selling and overselling various interests in one piece of property: it can sell the property at a premium, rent it repeatedly, and continually use it as a tool to induce new sales – sometimes all at once.” The timeshare owners allege that Westgate limits owners’ use of its timeshare units so they can then be rented out for additional profit or used as sample units to sell timeshare properties to new buyers.
A jury trial has been set for May 2, 2022.
Pending Consumer Actions against Diamond
SANDRA J. COOKSEY v. DIAMOND RESORTS INTERNATIONAL CLUB, INC.
CASE # 6:19-cv-01760 | US DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF OREGON
In the lawsuit, timeshare owner Sandra Cooksey, represented by attorney Leonard DuBoff of the DuBoff Law Group, LLC, in Portland Oregon, claims fraud, misrepresentation, abuse in violation of Oregon’s statute protecting elders, and violation of Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. She alleges that Diamond Resorts made a material and fraudulent misrepresentation that her purchase of additional timeshare points would be akin to having deeded ownership in a mortgaged property. She additionally alleges that Diamond misrepresented the true amount of her monthly maintenance fee obligation and attempted to open a new credit card in her name in order to pay for her down payment.
According to the complaint, Cooksey, a retired 66-year-old, purchased a timeshare from Diamond Resorts in January of 2018. On March 4, 2109, Cooksey, traveling alone, used her timeshare membership to check into a Diamond Resorts property in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. Upon check-in, the concierge told Cooksey that she would be eligible for a $100 certificate if she attended a VIP lunch. At the lunch, a Diamond employee began reviewing her 2018 sale documents and told her she was eligible for a gift left for her by her previous salesman. This “gift” allowed her to purchase more points at a reduced rate. The timeshare owner alleges that the employee told her the additional points were like having a deeded ownership interest in a property with a mortgage. The employee further befriended the timeshare owner, making her feel special and that they had a “spiritual connection”. Cooksey alleges she explained to the Diamond representative that she did not have the down payment of $10,600, but the representative attempted to open a new American Express card in her name. When the employee could not complete the transaction, the timeshare owner provided two other credit cards for the down payment. The timeshare owner alleges she was given insufficient time to read documents that were put in front of her and expressed to the sales representative that she feared it would require her to sell her residence. She alleges that she returned to Oregon under the impression that she only needed to pay a monthly maintenance fee of $119 but received notice from Diamond that $1,428.47 would be deducted from her bank account monthly.
Early win for the timeshare owner: Diamond bid unsuccessfully to dismiss the timeshare owner’s case at the pleading stage, arguing that Diamond was not a proper party because Cooksey’s timeshare contract was with a Mexican company, DPMAM, a wholly owned affiliate of Diamond, and because the contract purportedly required any dispute to be litigated in Baja California Sur, Mexico. The Court disagreed, ruling that Diamond could be liable for its affiliate’s wrongful acts based on the allegations that Diamond had a close relationship with DPMAM and could be found to be its alter ego. As for the forum selection clause, based on its examination of extrinsic the court ruled that term was unenforceable because the timeshare contract was a contract of adhesion. The judge explained that an “adhesion contract” is “A standard-form contract prepared by one party, to be signed by another party in a weaker position, usu[ally] a consumer, who adheres to the contract with little choice about the terms.”
Cooksey asks the Court to order Diamond to rescind her timeshare contract, and to pay treble damages and attorney’s fees as provided by Oregon’s elder abuse statute.
ROBERT & SUZANNE CURTHOYS v. DIAMOND RESORTS INTERNATIONAL, INC.
CASE # 2:20-cv-00760 | US DISTRICT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
In the lawsuit, timeshare owners Robert and Suzanne Curthoys, represented by attorney Christine Howson of the Wolf Law Firm in Irvine, claim that Diamond violated California’s statutes precluding “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business acts,” and financial elder abuse. The timeshare owners allege that Diamond has refused to take back their paid-in-full timeshare, notwithstanding Diamond’s much-touted voluntary surrender program known as “Transitions.” The Curthoys once retained an attorney to assist them in transferring their timeshare to a new buyer. According to the timeshare owners, Diamond denied their Transitions application “due to your account history reflecting legal representation on your end submitted to relinquish your vacation interest … Since working with a third party company or law firm is a disqualifier for Transitions, I am unable to submit a Transitions Request for you.”
The complaint alleges that Diamond and its affiliates “state that it is their policy to deny relief to consumers if they consult with an attorney regarding their legal rights. California public policy expressly recognizes the necessity of [ensuring] the right of every person to freely and fully confer and confide in one having knowledge of the law in order that its citizens may have adequate advice and a proper defense.”
The timeshare owners seek a judicial declaration that Diamond’s acts are unfair and fraudulent, and an order enjoining Diamond from prejudicing customers who seek legal advice. They seek punitive damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees pursuant to California’s elder abuse statute.
Pending Consumer Actions against Wyndham
TERINA and BRYAN CLARK v. WYNDHAM (PRIVATE ATTORNEY GENERAL ACT)
CASE # 1:18-CV-01661 | US DISTRICT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
In Clark v Wyndham, timeshare owners Terina and Bryan Clark, represented by US Consumer Attorneys, have brought a lawsuit on behalf of themselves and the general public, claiming that Wyndham violated California’s Unfair Competition Law when Wyndham sold them and financed for them real property interests without the requisite real estate license.
WOODWARD and JOANN DRAKE v. WYNDHAM
CASE # 30-2019-01082041 | Superior Court of California: County of Orange
In Drake v Wyndham, timeshare owners Woodward and Joann Drake, represented by attorney Mitchell Sussman, allege that Wyndham and their agent, Amber Chisum, committed fraud. The timeshare owners allege that Amber Chisum acted as a dual Real Estate agent on behalf of Wyndham and did not allow them to contact their own Real Estate agents to check the validity of the contracts. They allege they were promised availability to all properties, which was false. They allege they were not able to use their points appropriately and that Wyndham did not honor the promises made to induce them to purchase their timeshare interest. This case has been remanded to state court in Orange County, California.
GARY and LINDA HAMM v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS, INC.
CASE #3:19-cv-00426 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
In this lawsuit, timeshare owners Gary and Linda Hamm, represented by attorney George “Chip” Rieger, allege that over the years they have been misled, pressured and/or bullied into agreeing to purchase multiple upgrades of their Wyndham timeshare properties and/or points; however, Wyndham has systematically eliminated benefits that impact the timeshare owners use. They allege that Wyndham falsely told them that the offers were made on a “one-day-only” basis and would expire, that the timeshare maintenance fees would be lower if they upgraded or traded, and that the timeshare could be used as a tax deduction. They allege that Wyndham falsely told them that they would be able to vacation anywhere at any time, but desired reservations were never available or extremely limited and difficult to secure. The timeshare owners allege that Wyndham unfairly competes with timeshare owners, in that while Wyndham represents that there is a market for rental of the timeshare owners’ interests that will offset the purchase price, Wyndham did not disclose to the timeshare owners that Wyndham openly markets and rents units to the public at large, and the public at large can rent units at costs far below the costs incurred by the timeshare owners.
The timeshare owners allege that Wyndham falsely told them that Wyndham would buy back the timeshare upon request, and that Wyndham sales representatives told them to falsify their income on a Wyndham Rewards Visa Card Application. Finally, the timeshare owners allege that Wyndham pressured them to make hurried decisions and that the sales representatives would become angry and demeaning if they wanted to walk away or take time to think about their decisions.
The timeshare owners seek compensatory damages, treble and punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
DAVID PRATER and SHARON PRATER v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS INC.
CASE # 4:20-cv-00805 | US DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In the lawsuit, timeshare owners David and Sharon Prater, represented by attorney Emily Kate O’Brian of Jackson Lewis PC and George Anthony Campbell, Jr. of Campbell Teague LLC, claim fraud and misrepresentation, and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act and the Timeshare Act, SC Code Section 27-32-120. They allege that Wyndham made false representation concerning the availability of wheelchair-accessible accommodations and misrepresented that maintenance fees would not increase.
According to the complaint, the Praters attended a Wyndham timeshare presentation after learning of an opportunity to receive a free gift while vacationing in Myrtle Beach in January 2017. Mr. Prater, who is a paraplegic, was in his wheelchair at the presentation. The Wyndham representative promised the Praters that wheelchair-accessible accommodations were readily available and that they would have top priority for these accommodations since Mr. Prater was wheelchair-bound. The representative also promised that maintenance fees would never increase. The timeshare owners signed the contract on January 23, 2017 for the purchase of a timeshare interest from Wyndham’s resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. They booked a “handicap-accessible” room but when they arrived, Mr. Prater’s wheelchair could not fit through the bathroom threshold, making it unsuitable for wheelchair access. In addition, Wyndham increased their maintenance fees, which it promised it would not do.
The Praters ask the Court to order Wyndham to void their contract, refund all amounts paid under the contract and pay damages, costs and attorney’s fees.
A jury trial is set for January 18, 2021.
GUISEPPE CAMPO v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS INC., et al
CASE # 4:19-cv-03594 | US DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA (FLORENCE)
In the lawsuit, timeshare owner Guiseppe Campo, represented by attorney Lawrence Sidney Connor, IV of Kelaher Connell and Connor, claims unauthorized conversion of Wyndham points and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act. He alleges that Wyndham converted points from his wife and his joint ownership to the solely ownership of his wife without his permission, without any documentation and without any transfer or payment. He alleges Wyndham’s actions were reckless, willful, and intentional in order to sell additional points to his wife and because he was unwilling to sign documents that would further indebt him to Wyndham.
According to the complaint, Campo attended a sales presentation with his wife, Joyce. At the time, Guiseppe and his wife together owned 895,000 Wyndham points, most of which they had purchased during their marriage. The salesman on behalf of Wyndham asked Guiseppe to leave the room. When Guiseppe left the room, the salesperson credited his wife with all 895,000 points, leaving him with no points. Guiseppe and his wife had spent over $150,000 for those points, however, Guiseppe did not execute any documents granting those points to his wife.
Campo asks the Court to order Wyndham to pay actual damages in excess of $150,000, plus punitive damages of $1.5 million dollars, treble damages over $450,000, costs and attorney’s fees.
A jury trial is set for December 9, 2020.
DEGEUS, et al v. WYNDHAM VACATION OWNERSHIP, INC., et al
CASE # 3:19-cv-05325 | US DISTRICT COURT, CALIFORNIA NORTHERN DISTRICT (SAN FRANCISCO)
In the lawsuit, timeshare owners Janice Degeus and Nancy Johnson; Jemaal Knox and Marlene Knox; Cameron Krug and Sarah Mescher; Kyoungah Lee; Friah Rogers; Teresa Sharp (fka Teresa Allred) and Mark Allred, represented by attorney Jack Duran, Jr. of Duran Law Office and John P. Abrams of The Abrams Firm, claim fraud, breach of contract, deceptive sales tactics and violations of California statutory law and the Federal Rico Act. They allege they were all defrauded in the sales transactions of timeshares sold to them by Wyndham in California.
According to the complaint, the timeshare owners allege that they were denied disclosures presented to prospective purchasers before purchase as required by the California Public Report, Time-Share (CPR. They allege that not one of them had knowledge that successor liability existed in their contracts, holding their children or family members liable to pay financial obligation owed to Wyndham. They claim that the cost-per-use was considerably higher than what the public pays online and it was extremely difficult to find availability. They allege deceptive, high-pressure sales tactics and false promises and concealments to get them to purchase “real property” the same day, that ownership is a good “investment” that always goes up in value and that they can make rental income, and that maintenance fees do not go up at all or only very little.
The timeshare owners ask the Court to order Wyndham to terminate or rescind their timeshare contracts and to pay damages and attorney’s fees as permitted by the California Private Attorney General’s Act.
GERALD THOMPSON & CYNTHIA JOHNSON v. WYNDHAM RESORT DEVELOPMENT CORP.
CASE # 4:20-cv-03054 | US DISTRICT COURT OF NEBRASKA
In the lawsuit, timeshare owners Gerald Thompson and Cynthia Johnson, represented by attorney George Vinton, claim fraud, breach of contract, and violation of the Nebraska Time Share Act.
The timeshare owners allege that Wyndham continually sold them more points by promising that they could spend time in Wyndham locations at “almost any time,” however they were never able to use any of their points to stay at destinations at any reasonable times. The allege that the Nebraska Time Share Act requires developers identify the specific timeshare intervals that correspond with units sold, and that “points” are the same as “units.”
The timeshare owners ask the Court to order Wyndham to terminate or rescind their timeshare contracts and to pay damages of $77,959.70 with interest and attorney’s fees as permitted by the Nebraska Time Share Act.
MAIVA MAREE v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS, INC., et al
CASE # 1:19-cv-00386 | US DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF COLORADO (DENVER) (PROPOSED CLASS ACTION)
In this class action lawsuit, Maiva Maree, represented by attorneys Todd M. Friedman of Todd M. Friedman, P.C., Jarrett L. Ellzey of Hughes Ellzey, LLP and John P. Kristensen of Kristensen Weisberg, LLP, claims Wyndham made unsolicited telemarketing calls to consumers nationwide, violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). She alleges Defendant conducted wide scale telemarketing campaigns using automatic dialing systems and repeatedly made unsolicited calls to consumers, whose numbers appear on the National Do Not Call Registry, without consent.
According to the complaint, on or before the fall of 2017, Defendant began making automated telemarketing sales calls, en masse, to consumers across the country knowingly without the prior written consent of the recipients and knowingly continues to call them after requests to stop. According to the complaint, on or about August 26, 2005, Maree registered her cellular phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. Beginning on or about November 30, 2017, the timeshare owner began receiving automated telemarketing calls on her cell phone. Allegedly, the timeshare owner never had a business relationship with the Defendant and never gave Defendant prior consent to contact her on her phone. According to the complaint, the timeshare owner received at least two calls during a twelve-month period and when she told the Defendant to stop calling, the calls continued.
Maree asks the Court to order Wyndham to cease all unsolicited telephone calling activities and to pay damages, an award for the class representative, pre- and post-judgment interest on monetary relief and attorney’s fees.
BRANDON BLUHM v. WYNDHAM DESTINATIONS INC., et al.
CASE # 6:19-cv-02300 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA (ORLANDO)
In the lawsuit, timeshare owner Brandon Bluhm, represented by attorneys Tyson Pulsifer of Zetrouer Pulsifer, PLLC, and Anthony Wisen of Law Offices of Anthony S. Wisen, PLLC claim breach of contract, negligence, fraud and violations of the Washington Timeshare Act, the Washington Consumer Protection Act and Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The timeshare owner alleges that Wyndham, after a supposed “upgrade” to the online reservation system in 2017, fraudulently and in breach of its contractual obligations, completely shut him out of its reservation system, immediately depriving him of any ability to earn revenues on his Wyndham timeshares.
According to the complaint, Bluhm had created a successful business purchasing and renting timeshare properties worldwide from Wyndham. He purchased his first timeshare from Wyndham in 1996 and continued to “upgrade”. By 2012, he had approximately 2.6 million points and two deeds when he learned about Wyndham’s “Extra Holidays”, a website where he could rent his timeshare interests to the public. According to the complaint, by 2013, running this rental business had become the timeshare owner’s primary source of income. By May of 2017, the timeshare owner’s Wyndham holdings had grown to 18,000,000 points, with 68 fractional contracts, and had already grossed $244,000 for that year. According to the complaint, after many years of doing business with Wyndham, it unexpectedly revoked the timeshare owners’ access to Wyndham’s reservation website, the lifeblood of the timeshare owner’s business. Since Wyndham does not allow owners to rent their properties through third-party channels such as Airbnb without first making a reservation through their system, once this access to the reservation system was terminated, the timeshare owner had no way of renting his properties or earning a living. Allegedly, Bluhm called and emailed Wyndham repeated, trying to gain access his account but in July of 2017 was informed by a Wyndham manager that his account could only be put back in working order if 64 contracts were removed by his portfolio. According to the compliant, the timeshare owner was induced to reconvey the 64 contracts in order to gain access to his account. Even after doing so in August of 2017, Wyndham did not grant access until October 18, 2017, costing the timeshare owner five months of rental income.
Bluhm asks the Court to order Wyndham to pay damages and attorney’s fees, for injunctive relief to restore timeshare owner’s access to the online reservation system and for rescission or reformation of contracts and restitution.
MATTHEW AND MARGARET MCCORMACK v. WYNDHAM VACATION RENTALS NORTH AMERICA, LLC, et al.
CASE # 2:19-cv-03317 | US DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA (CHARLESTON)
In the lawsuit, Virginia residents Matthew and Margaret McCormack, represented by attorney James Davis of J Davis Law, claim breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act. They allege that Wyndham Vacation Rentals knew, or should have known, of the substantial defects in the property the offered to rent the McCormack’s, and that the property was not in a good, clean, safe and habitable condition suitable for rent. They allege that Wyndham Vacation Rentals failed to perform its obligations and responsibilities and negligently misrepresented the property’s condition, constituting unfair and deceptive acts and practices in the leasing, brokerage, and agency of real estate against public interest.
According to the complaint, the McCormacks rented a 6-bedroom vacation home in Isle of Palms, South Carolina for their annual family vacation. For the past 20 years, the timeshare owners have taken a family vacation with their extended family, many members of which travel from distant states to be together for one week. They paid Wyndham Vacation Rentals $15,682.52 for the property for the week. Upon arriving at the property on June 29, 2019, however, they allege they discovered the property to be in a gross state of disrepair, dangerous and having a foul odor. The complaint cites a strong sewage smell and a refrigerator containing mouse droppings and rotten meat.
On May 28, 2020, Wyndham Vacation Rentals offered the McCormacks a “confession of judgment” for $15,682.52.
The McCormacks ask the Court to order Wyndham Vacation Rentals to pay attorney’s fees as well as damages. A jury trial is set for December 14, 2020.
STEVEN AND ELIZABETH KIRCHNER, AND NAZRET GEBREMESKEL v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS INC.
CASE # 1:20-cv-00436 | US DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF DELAWARE (WILMINGTON) (PROPOSED CLASS ACTION)
The timeshare owners in this prospective class action lawsuit allege that Wyndham violated the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Tennessee Timeshare Act by failing to disclose to the prospective class members that they can obtain equal or greater access to Wyndham’s resort destinations at an equal or lesser cost without buying timeshares, by using public booking websites such as tripadvisor.com.
The lawsuit cites to numerous consumer complaints about Wyndham, including documents obtained by a public records request to Florida’s Department of Consumer Services.
In the lawsuit, Steven and Elizabeth Kirchner, and Nazret Gebremeskel, represented by attorney Herbert W. Mondros of Margolis Edelstein and attorneys Adam Szulczewski, and Howard B. Prossnitz of Law Offices of Howard B. Prossnitz, claim violations by Wyndham of the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Tennessee Timeshare Act. They allege that Wyndham intentionally and consistently fails to disclose to prospective timeshare owners that instead of purchasing Wyndham timeshares for an average price of $21,000 that they can often obtain equal or greater access to Wyndham destinations at an equal or lesser cost withing buying timeshares (through public websites such as Tripadvisor.com). They allege prospective owners are not told of the significant availability issues of trying to book through Wyndham’s website nor are they told that due to ever increasing annual maintenance fees, owners end up with ownerships that have negative value.
According to the complaint, the Kirchners were offered a two-day promotional trip by Wyndham to stay at a Wyndham location in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. They were told it was a one to two-hour presentation but in fact it took closer to five hours. The Kirchners were subject to a high pressure sales presentation and when they initially declined to purchase Wyndham points, were told there was a special deal available for that day only, that they would get extra bonus points if they signed up and the cost of the contract was lowered by half from its original price. They were told they would be saving money on vacation by becoming owners and that they would have great flexibility in when and where they could travel. Nothing was said about public travel websites offering equal or better availability at an equal or better price, or that that the value of ownership actually goes negative over time. The Kirchners purchased 84,000 points for $15,500.
The Kirchners allege they have been unable to book their desired Wyndham destinations at their desired times and when they requested cancellation of their contract, Wyndham refused. More disturbingly, they allege they have discovered that the annual dollar value of their 84,000 points is $870 and with an annual maintenance fee which keep increasing each year, it will have a negative economic value.
According to the complaint, Gebremeskel was vacationing in Las Vegas and was offered discounted tickets to Cirque du Soleil if she agreed to attend a ninety-minute Wyndham timeshare presentation. Instead, the presentation lasted almost seven hours and she was subjected to a high-pressure sales presentation and encountered multiple misrepresentations similar to that of the Kirchners. Gebremeskel paid $39,489.70 for 126,000 points. After she discovered it was cheaper to book destinations using public websites, she tried to cancel her agreement. Wyndham refuses.
On behalf of themselves and similarly situated consumers, the Kirchners and Gebremeskel ask the Court to order Wyndham to cancel all class member contracts, restitution of all monies paid to Wyndham, and pay damages and attorney’s fees.
BRIAN CARROLL AND ASHLEY CARROLL v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS INC. and COMENITY LLC d/b/a COMENITY BANK
CASE # 6:20-cv-00028 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA ORLANDO DIVISION (PROPOSED CLASS ACTION)
The timeshare owners in this prospective class action allege that Wyndham and Comenity Bank engaged in predatory lending, opened credit card accounts for prospective timeshare owners without authorization, and violated statutes enacted to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive sales methods and collections on debts.
Brian Carroll, one of the lead plaintiffs, was a member of the military at the time Wyndham sold him a timeshare. He alleges that “[p]redatory lending causes thousands of consumers needless harm. In fact, the harm predatory lending causes is so bad that, according to the Report On Predatory Lending Practices Directed at Members of the Armed Forces and Their Dependents, it even ‘undermines military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and adds to the cost of fielding an all-volunteer fighting force.’ ” Carroll goes on to allege that Wyndham and Comenity Bank are “corporate giants” who “sustain themselves, in part, by pressuring their employees with unrealistic sales goals, which in turn cause them to use predatory lending practices, like opening unauthorized credit accounts, to sell and finance thousands of timeshares nationwide.”
Brian and his wife Ashley, represented by attorney James L. Kauffman of Bailey & Glasser, LLP, Darren Newhart of Consumer Law Organization, PA, and Christopher Legg, claim violations by Wyndham of the Truth in Lending Act (“TILA”), Florida’s Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUPTA). They claim Comenity Bank violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the TILA and its implementing regulation (“Regulation Z”), and the FCCPA. They allege that families are invited to a “free” prize to attend a timeshare presentation and then have them fill out a form with the consumer’s financial information. That information is then allegedly used, unbeknownst to the consumer, to obtain a credit report and then, apply for Comenity credit cards taken out in the consumer’s name. The consumer allegedly does not discover the foregoing until weeks after the presentation, and only after receiving a notice from the credit agency and/or the credit card in the mail.
According to the complaint, the Carrolls were approached as they were leaving SeaWorld with their young children and offered a free prize to attend the timeshare presentation. They were allegedly given a form to give their personal information and a tablet to sign their names, prior to attending the presentation. They allege that they attended the presentation and stated that they were not interested, and that the timeshare was unaffordable because Brian was in the military and they did not want to be bound by a contract.
The complaint alleges that after Wyndham offered the Carrols a “no interest” deal, $100/month and no contract, they agreed, however, they never consented to open a credit card or have a credit application submitted in their name. They allege that they later received a package in the mail from Comenity, advising that a credit card had been opened and $3,753.06 had been charged to pay for the timeshare, without their consent. They allege that they were issued a Club Wyndham Discovery Membership Agreement, and that they at no time were informed that their information would be used to submit a credit card application or open a credit card account.
On behalf of themselves and similarly situated timeshare owners, the Carrols seek a jury trial and, under the Declaratory Judgment Act, ask the Court to order Wyndham to disgorge all monies unlawfully collected from timeshare owners, to order Comenity Bank to void all unauthorized credit card agreements with timeshare owners, to forgive any outstanding loans and to pay the class members’ attorney’s fees under the “common benefit” doctrine.
CAROLYN NOLEN, WINDY KELLEY, CARA KELLEY, AND PAULA LITTON v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS INC., et al.
CASE # 6:20-cv-00330 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA (ORLANDO) (PROPOSED CLASS ACTION)
The timeshare owners in this prospective class action allege that Wyndham violated multiple acts of conflict of interest, profited from the use of trust property and affiliates, and engaged in misleading and deceptive financial practices.
In the lawsuit, Carolyn Nolen, Windy Kelley, Cara Kelley and Paula Litton, represented by attorneys James M. Terrell and Rodney E. Miller of Methvin, Terrell, Yancey, Stephens & Miller, PC, and Patrick A. Barthle and John Allen Yanchunis of Morgan & Morgan, PA, claim multiple violations by Wyndham of the Arkansas Trust Code. They allege that Wyndham aggressively markets to prospective timeshare buyers, including “upgrades” to current owners, and substantially profits by financing and re-financing timeshare purchases, many times above market interest rates. As a part of the financing, Wyndham requires a down payment or in some instances to finance the entire purchase using a Wyndham sponsored credit card. It then charges all owners a variety of maintenance fees, paid to Wyndham or an affiliated entity. In addition, timeshare owners are required to transfer 100% interest to another Wyndham entity that manages an exchange program with other owners, assessing annual and exchange fees.
According to the complaint, on July 31, 2015, Carolyn Nolan and her former husband, purchased a timeshare from Wyndham for a total price of $21,413.80, which included a $164.80 PayPal settlement charge and a $349 processing fee from purchasing this on a Wyndham sponsored credit card (0% interest for six months and then 14.99% on an annual basis). Wyndham required the timeshare owner, and every timeshare purchaser, to assign 100% of their interest to Club Wyndham Plus, a program governed by the Fairshare Trust, an affiliate entity. By assigning her interest to the Trust, the timeshare owner transferred all rights in the timeshare. The Trust gained all right to assign possession and use rights of her timeshare to other timeshare owners in the program. The timeshare owner was then required to pay an annual assessment fee per year of over $800, of which was charged to her Wyndham credit card. Wyndham also required the timeshare owner to become a member of the Fairshare Vacation Owners Association and was automatically enrolled in the RCI exchange program, both affiliated entities.
On January 5, 2016, timeshare owners Windy Kelley, Cara Kelley and Paula Litton purchased a timeshare from Wyndham with a new gross contract price of $316,000.00. The timeshare owners paid the $207,047.98 purchase price through a trade-in of existing timeshare points (which Wyndham valued at $144,501.30) and financed the remaining $62,156.30 balance with Wyndham’s credit subsidiary with an annual rate of 11.49% over 10 years. They were assessed closing and processing fees, required to assign 100% of their interest to Club Wyndham Plus and paid over $600 for the 2017 annual assessment fee. They too were automatically enrolled in the RCI exchange program.
On May 26, 2020, Wyndham filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and a motion to stay discovery pending resolution of the motion to dismiss. The judge denied the motion, ruling that “being subjected to litigation is not ‘good cause’ for modifying deadlines and staying a case.”
On behalf of themselves and similarly situated consumers, the timeshare owners ask the Court to order Wyndham to pay disgorgement of profits, damages and cost of suit.
MULTIPLE PLAINTIFFS v. WYNDHAM
MULTIPLE CASE #s | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
In Florida and Tennessee, the volume of pending timeshare lawsuits against Wyndham alleging fraudulent practices and other consumer violations are so great, that the courts are using creative solutions to resolve them efficiently:
Attorney Donald Hackett ambitiously filed no less than 59 complaints on behalf of timeshare owners against Wyndham in the US District Court, Middle District of Florida. Wyndham filed motions to dismiss each of the cases. On March 3, 2020, the court ordered the timeshare owners’ counsel to select five of the complaints to proceed and ordered a stay of the remaining 54 pending resolution of the selected few.
Early win for the timeshare owners: On April 22, 2020, the Court rejected Wyndham’s attempt to dismiss the representative complaints for fraud, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and violation of the Florida Timesharing Act at the pleadings stage. The timeshare owners will thus proceed on their allegations that Wyndham misrepresented that they had equity in their timeshare interest that they could “roll” into a new purchase, that their timeshare interest had significant real value, that they could rent their timeshare to cover maintenance fees, and that they were repeatedly denied reservations when rooms were available, because Wyndham was renting them on the open market.
The timeshare owners in the cases generally seek rescission of their timeshare contracts, disgorgement of profits received by Wyndham, damages, attorney’s fees, and interest. A jury trial is set for October 5, 2020.
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KEVIN and PAMELA BUXTON v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS, INC.
CASE # 6:19-CV-01555 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
LOUISE CAMPBELL and DENNIS HELDMAN v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS, INC.
CASE # 6:19-CV-01556 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
MARVIN and MARY JANE BLESSING v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS, INC.
CASE # 6:19-CV-01613 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
ROY and MARY CHANDLER v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS, INC.
CASE # 6:19-CV-01647 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
GEORGE and MYRTLE MASON v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS, INC.
CASE # 6:19-CV-01648 | US DISTRICT COURT, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
ROBERT AND REBECCA SIMMONS v. WYNDHAM VACATION RESORTS, INC.
CASE # 3:20-cv-00029 | US DISTRICT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE (KNOXVILLE)
In the lawsuit, timeshare owners Robert and Rebecca Simmons, represented by attorneys Alexander Cramer and Jesse Nelson of Nelson Law Group, PLLC, claim fraud and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977. They allege they were tricked into entering into multiple timeshare contracts based on oral and material misrepresentation and with high pressure sales tactics.
According to the complaint: The timeshare owners stayed at a Wyndham property three times, in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Each time when they attempted to check into the hotel, the staff informed them they were required to attend a brief presentation to obtain their parking pass. On the first two dates, the “90-minute presentation” lasted six hours and they were bombarded with high-pressure sales tactics until they capitulated and purchased a timeshare or signed a new sales contract. On the third time, they refused until on the final day of their vacation, a Wyndham employee came to their hotel room and offered them a free gift. This presentation was allegedly supposed to be 30 minutes but lasted five hours. The timeshare owners allege that they felt cornered and capitulated once again. This contract required them to use the credit card points they acquired over three years by September 2019 or those points would expire. The timeshare owners booked a weekend stay in August, but they were once again faced with a new sales pitch.
The timeshare owners allege that the 2019 presentation lasted seven hours and they were told their old contracts were a bad deal and that a new contract would give them Gold Level, could be passed on to their children and there would be no down payment. In addition, they allege they were required to sign the contract on video and were instructed on several key phrases they could not say on camera. They allege they were rushed through a 77-page sales contract and told there was no down payment when in fact the down-payment was $32,219.49. This down payment was allegedly distributed between two lines of credit and two credit card charges, of which Wyndham opened the credit cards on the spot and immediately processed the charges of $26,500 in total.
The Simmons ask the Court to order Wyndham to void or rescind their contract and release them of all obligations, return any interest in any timeshare property they can claim, refund all fees and charges including their down payment, and pay damages and attorney’s fees.
The Court has ordered the case stayed until mediation can be completed no later than August 1, 2020.
Special note: In the US District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee, 15 lawsuits against Wyndham (13 of them brought by Aubrey Givens) have been ordered stayed pending mediation to be conducted no later than August 1, 2020, including the case above.
Disclaimer: While the Coalition to Reform Timeshare’s summaries attempt to concisely reflect timeshare owners’ and whistleblowers’ allegations, for full context and accuracy, the reader is encouraged to review the court-filed pleadings that are linked for the reader’s reference to the caption for each lawsuit.
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