After years of awaiting restitution and watching their lawsuit disappear, Marriott timeshare owners are back for vengeance. On the 20th of last month, former class members, alongside their representation, plead with the 11th circuit court to revive their dismissed ruling and reopen the arranged Marriott lawsuit immediately. One can only assume the effects of the Coronavirus played a role in their secondary restitution efforts.
What Was the Initial Timeshare Problem?
Nonetheless, the initial class action claim accused Marriott Ownership Resorts of manipulating timeshare prospects into purchasing baseless real estate contracts through timeshare “points programs.” Anthony and Beth Lennen led the charge then and continue to do so today. Aside from financial hardship and potential fraud, the former plaintiffs argue that the decision to dismiss their suit does not follow Florida property laws.
The class member’s attorney echoed their argument. “The points are not property under any law,” he told the 11th circuit panel. According to the plaintiffs, the Marriott Vacation Club’s Destinations Trust Points Program (MVC Trust) violates Florida law because it is “disguised as a real property interest”.
A federal judge previously agreed that consumer deeds for the MVC Trust timeshare product are void because they lack valid legal descriptions of the property interests being conveyed. “[Florida’s] timeshare statute expressly excludes these types of interests from being sold as timeshares,” the Marriott lawsuit went on to say.
Both Sides of Argument Leverage Florida Law.
“In order to find otherwise, you’d have to find that the Florida Legislature created property rights on par with actual partitionable land,” their attorney stated. This is all rather interesting as timeshares have been steadily evolving into point based structures that provide more revenue and control. Traditional timeshares involve fractional interest in real properties that people can reserve for a week (or two) at a time.
The Marriott lawsuit claims that MVC owners were given increments of points to book nightly stays at various Marriott condos, like a travel club. Marriott’s attorney, Elliot Scherker, counter argued that the timeshare deeds “in the transaction identify a timeshare estate as the property interest being conveyed, and under the law, that timeshare estate is real property.”
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 (OC) and First American Financial Corporation in the “scheme”. Both were (and are still) 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 (Fees for maintenance, assessments, closing costs, etc..) 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.
Marriott’s Accusers Dig Deep for Motives.
While the Lennens are frustrated with the result of their alleged misrepresented purchase, they’re just as concerned about Marriott’s future intentions. Class members believe the hotel chain is dealing with heightened costs due to holding tens of thousands of timeshare properties during the 2008 real estate market collapse.
Although this may be difficult to prove, a points-based product may have given Marriott an ability to “monetize its inventory or corporate owned estates while avoiding related costs.” The Marriott lawsuit points heavily to these accusations.
Even though a majority of the class action’s arguments were dismissed by March of 2019 (3 years later), they did so “without prejudice”, this gave plaintiffs a sense of hope they’re still holding onto. At the recent 11th Circuit meeting, members from Orange County, Marriott and First American were in attendance.
More On the Meeting and Those Involved.
During the plaintiff’s proposal, U.S. Circuit Judge Andrew Brasher questioned whether they had suffered “any injury” from the timeshare deeds that had not been voided. Victims responded by saying they’ve “had to take on the burdens associated with property ownership, like title policy premiums, taxes and maintenance fees,” since making the purchase. But instead of receiving actual real estate, they got limited points. This is still a problem in their eyes – and they’re not alone in their rebuke.
The Marriott lawsuit is filed under Lennen et al. v. Marriott Ownership Resorts Inc. et al., case number 19-13215, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Judges Robert J. Luck, Andrew Brasher and Beverly Martin sat on the 11th Circuit panel in November. Marriott Ownership Resorts was represented by Elliot H. Scherker, Brigid F. Cech Samole and Katherine M. Clemente of Greenberg Traurig PA. Stay tuned to see what transpires.