Against the odds, a victory was achieved for those who have been harmed by unfair and deceptive timeshare sales and lending practices. While the young are not immune from predatory timeshare sales and lending, there has been a never-ending stream of seniors seeking help – seniors who are angry, frustrated, and often desperate. A jury confirmed allegations that were reported to us by three seniors, similar to what was reported at the FantaSea jury trial – actions that meet the definition of financial elder abuse. They describe their experiences below.
As reported by PRNewswire.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., Oct. 6, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A Superior Court jury in New Jersey decided in favor of consumers deceived by timeshare seller FantaSea Resorts, awarding the plaintiffs a $1,069,285 verdict for the Atlantic City resort’s intentionally deceptive sales practices. The victory for consumers was championed by Schroeter Goldmark & Bender along with partners, Flitter Milz, PC and the Law Office of David Ricci.
FantaSea, a participant in the Resort Owner’s Coalition (ROC) of the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) whose properties include its Flagship, Atlantic Palace and La Sammana resorts, also misled consumer plaintiffs into believing that their purchase was a real estate investment that would increase in value over time. Instead, plaintiffs in the suit found that they were not only unable to sell their timeshare purchase but that it had effectively no resale value.
FantaSea Complaint #1: A senior in New Jersey, age 78
To Ms Kimberly D’Agostino, Director
I purchased a FantaSea (Flagship) timeshare in November of 2013 for $7,900 from Flagship Resort Development Corp. After complaining about the lack of availability, I was told the unit I had was not desirable and I should upgrade. In July of 2015, I upgraded, purchasing from Flagship Development Corp. a LaSammana unit for $15,900. As of September 2019, I have NEVER been able to use this or any property because of my age and some medical problems, including knee surgery, hip replacement, knee replacement, broken arm, and 10 broken ribs with a punctured lung.
FantaSea’s title department responded to my request for release, “We don’t do that.”
ARDA did not reply to this senior. FantaSea is one of several resorts that do not participate in ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit. https://responsibleexit.com/ Other resorts with no responsible exit are listed in this article:
Complaint #2, age 88, a widow, Pennsylvania resident
September 2019, my correspondence to La Sammana in Brigantine New Jersey: <email@example.com>;
Last week I spoke to someone at FantaSea who was very helpful with someone who contacted me about a medical hardship. Today I spoke with someone rude. I write articles about timeshare. When I am contacted by someone who doesn’t know where to begin, may not have a computer, or is in a crisis, I make a call to their resort to make sure they are headed in the right direction. This owner is 88 years old, and a widow. Her driver’s license could not be renewed. She said Roxanne in your title department “snickered” at her and told her she was being strung along if she thinks she can get out. Roxanne said there is no exit.
FantaSea is a member of ARDA. I sat behind ARDA-ROC Chairman Kenneth McKelvey when he testified at a Florida legislative workshop in 2019, that he has been in the industry for 30 years and every resort he knew had a dissolution policy. ARDA has launched a Coalition for Responsible Exit. According to this senior, Flagship has no responsible exit.
I will be publishing an article about good, bad and ugly dissolution. I am sickened by an 88-year-old widow held hostage by an uncaring company.
Flagship’s response to me
I can assure you that Roxanne did not “snicker” at H G. I was sitting here and heard the entire conversation. She cautioned her to be careful of any timeshare resale company that will ask for money upfront & then they do nothing.
I wish that we could take back the units of every owner who calls us with a sad story. Unfortunately, the condo association could not afford to pay all of their fees. We will make an exception for Mrs G and send her a Quit Claim Deed to terminate her ownership.
Lisa Van Winkle, Manager, Title and Legal Dept.
Flagship Resort Development Corp.
60 N. Maine Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ 08401
My response to Ms Van Winkle – Every sad story???
Helen is 88 years old, a widow. She has just been denied a driver’s license. She uses a walker. Kenneth McKelvey testified, “All resorts I am familiar with, all have a dissolution policy.” Do you have to be in a permanent coma?
I am gathering research on whether ARDA’s Coalition for Responsible Exit is real or just a media spin. Holding a widow 88 years old hostage is not healthy for the industry. I am flooded with calls from seniors of the timeshare world.
That said, I am grateful you will make an exception in this case.
Thank you, Irene
FantaSea Complaint #3 – Seniors in Virginia, ages 67 and 68
My husband and I purchased a Flagship timeshare years ago. We were told the timeshare was real estate and would be easy to sell. I have learned timeshares are almost impossible to sell. We cannot travel. My husband has ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. We requested a voluntary surrender. We have no loan outstanding. We only used the timeshare one time since we bought it.
I have always said that half a problem goes away when confronted. In the case of FantaSea, lawyers and their clients confronted problems that Developers insist don’t exist, or don’t matter because of the non-reliance clause that weaponizes the timeshare contract.
Let’s hope this jury award does not end up a pay-to-play. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director, Rohit Chopra, in his lecture at Penn Law, talked about companies “too big to fail, too big to jail” and also spoke of cronyism. He named several companies, including Wells Fargo, who have been fined multiple times for the same offence.
Why is listening so hard to do? There are problems. Admit it, and work on a solution. There will be no solution if Developers do not admit they are part of the problem. Developers created the exit industry.
Flagship Development Corporation has an A + BBB rating. The Better Business Bureau does not rate the quality of a company, just how efficiently the company responds to complaints. It doesn’t take long to respond, “Find a buyer.” They are few and far between, especially for Legacy (old) resorts.
Thank you, Irene, for your report, while thinking about what to write in the editorial, my first thought was “Thank goodness for juries”. But then I thought of the losing side, what their comment would be, well I could only think of one and it is typical English parlance, “Bloody juries!”.
There is always going to be a loser, a jury is going to decide one way or the other on what they have heard, again it is down to “semantics”, who interpreted the law in a way which swung the jury. Yes, it is about “facts”, but it is how the law is interpreted to suit those facts as to whether they are accepted or rejected.
In this case, the consumer won the argument, and the developer lost, but that is not the way it should be it should never have come to this. Yes, it is a victory for the consumer, but it is also a valuable lesson for the developer and the industry.
They should now walk away and examine their whole way of business, right from the very beginning, the “sales presentation”, taking responsibility for what sales agents tell consumers. It all starts with a lie and then the lie is perpetuated.
In the end, the jury made their decision, and AIT believes it is the right one, we can only hope lessons will be learned and the industry will change for the better.
That’s all for this week, preparations are already underway for Christmas with the tree up and Baby Dog having a good old sniff, good job he was caught! Have a great weekend.