“Forced arbitration is a corporate bullying tactic designed to kick people out of court and eliminate their right to seek justice. It’s a rigged system set up by corporations to favor corporations,” said American Association for Justice CEO Linda Lipsen. The Trial Lawyer 2015
By Larry Lobbyist, a Westgate Resorts Timeshare Buyer, updated 10/12/2022
Westgate Timeshare Hostages Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/westgatehostages
Timeshare owners, who are also active duty service members, filed two lawsuits accusing Developers Westgate Resorts and Bluegreen Vacations of violating the Military Lending Act (MLA).
The Bluegreen Vacations lawsuit, Case No. 21-cv-61938, Louis v. Bluegreen Vacations Unlimited, Inc., US District Court, Southern District of Florida, was ordered dismissed on May 31, 2022. The court ruled that attorneys for the plaintiffs failed to identify harm. The case is on appeal. As stated in the court document:
Notably, there is no indication that the required disclosures or the inclusion of an arbitration provision—both of which constitute the alleged MLA violations—impacted Plaintiffs in any way. By merely alleging the MLA was violated without establishing any “downstream consequences,” Plaintiffs lack standing to proceed. Trichell v. Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc., 964 F.3d 990, 1004 (11th Cir. 2020).
How about losing your security clearance?
We’re aware of an active duty service member who lost his air unit command because of a Bluegreen default. Seven active-duty timeshare buyers recently reported that they experienced unfair and deceptive timeshare sales tactics. Sales agents reportedly promised them the ability to rent to offset costs, which is unfeasible, the ability to refinance, or the ability to sell when there is little to no secondary market for timeshares.
How is a timeshare loan comparable to a residential mortgage? What home in America cannot be sold because of a loan outstanding? It’s difficult enough to sell a timeshare that is fully paid for, but to sell a timeshare with an outstanding loan is all but impossible.
In 2020, the FTC listed Timeshare Sales at #9 on their Top Ten Scam list ($18 million) and Timeshare Resales ($13 million) at #10.
The Westgate MLA Lawsuit
Westgate owners’ lawsuit (Steines v Westgate Palace, LLC, et al, US District Court, Middle District of Florida, Case No: 8:22-cv-283), have opposed Westgate’s motion to dismiss a claim, and motion to compel arbitration, and are waiting for the court’s ruling on those two motions.
….a failure to pay financial obligations often results in the loss of that security clearance and concomitant involuntary separation from the military.
Plaintiffs allege that Westgate Resorts violated the Military Lending Act by overcharging current and former service members, and included a mandatory arbitration clause in their agreement, in violation of federal law. The Military Lending Act was enacted by the United States Congress in 2006 to protect members of the United States Military from an epidemic of predatory lending that endangered military readiness and impacts service member retention, the claim reads.
Developers seem to target Military consumers because of their reliable source of income and the complications a default could have on their military career. Westgate offers free stays during Veterans Day Weekend and discounts to military families year-round.
Service Members Paid More Than They Should for Westgate Resorts
As stated in the lawsuit complaint: In August 2019, Adam — an active-duty member of the United States Army — and his wife Miranda obtained financing to purchase a “Westgate Resort” timeshare tied to Westgate Palace L.L.C. To obtain financing, they entered into Westgate’s standard form Agreement, which was subject to MLA requirements. However, Westgate failed to provide any of the mandatory MLA disclosures of their rights pursuant to the MLA. The total amount Westgate financed was $8,024.87 and the annual percentage rate was stated as 17.99%, the claim shows, when their MAPR was at least 19.124%, in violation of the MLA.
Steine, et al. v Westgate Resorts, LTD, L.P. Case No. 8:22-cv-00283-CEH-JSS in the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida Tampa filed February 2, 2022
Westgate’s Demand for Arbitration
As of February 1, 2022, Westgate’s (WOW) Benefits web page states that as of February 1, 2022, owners must agree to binding arbitration in order to access benefits. Signed contracts only waived the right to a jury trial. The date of the Westgate military owners’ lawsuit filing was February 2, 2022. https://www.westgateresorts.com/loyalty/terms-conditions/
PLAINTIFFS’ SUR-REPLY IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA ORLANDO DIVISION Case 6:22-cv-00629-RBD-GJK Filed 06/07/22
This Court must make an initial determination as to whether the Military Lending Act (“MLA”) applies in this case, as it will control whether the arbitration agreement and the delegation clause were void from their inception.
As reported by Lexology June 9, 2022
Arbitration Clauses Added to Account Agreements Face Risks After Supreme Court Declines Review of Sixth Circuit’s BB&T Decision
BB&T amended the bank services agreement in 2004 to add a class-action waiver provision to the arbitration agreement, among other things. It amended the agreement again in 2017 to make arbitration mandatory. Id. at 474.
The Sixth Circuit’s Opinion: More significantly, the Sixth Circuit held that even if the change-of-terms procedures had been followed, the bank services agreement’s introduction of an arbitration clause, where the original contract did not address dispute resolution, was invalid as “unreasonable” because account holders had no reason to suspect that the bank may someday add such a term. Id. at 478.
PLAINTIFF’S SUR-REPLY IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS
Westgate Plaintiffs Adam and Miranda Steines hereby respond to Defendants’ Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss:
The starting and ending point for the Court’s analysis should be the language in the Deed and Timeshare Plan which conveys “an undivided interest in a [203- unit] building in the Resort Facility.” Defendants never try to explain how that specific language conveys an interest in a “dwelling” as that term is defined in the MLA (“a residential structure that contains one to four units…” including “an individual condominium unit ….”) Nor do they try to explain how the right to make a reservation at one of the 407 units in the facility on a first-come, first-served basis conveys a real property interest at all, much less one in a specific unit. Instead, they pretend that they conveyed a fee interest in Unit 1-1912 and argue how that fictional interest constitutes a real property interest in a “dwelling.”
The argument opposing the motion to dismiss the lawsuit centers around whether a timeshare meets the definition of a “dwelling” because a Westgate timeshare buyer purchases only the right to book a future stay.
In 2016, a class-action lawsuit was filed by a New York law firm against Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Case No. 6:16-cv-855-Orl-41TBS, for charging closing costs for a product that is not real estate. The lawsuit says Marriott timeshare buyers “are being duped into believing they are obtaining title to a real-property interest … when, in fact, they are merely getting a right-to-use license.”
As stated in the complaint:
Not since Moses has land been created from nothing!
Florida lawmakers and industry lobbyists legislated around the Marriott lawsuit by removing timeshare from the definition of beneficial interest: On February 9, 2017, SB 818 was introduced. That bill, introduced curiously on the heels of this action and immediately following a briefing on the meaning of “interest holder” (a term having a direct impact on Defendants’ racketeering activity), sought to revise the definition of “interest holder” as it applies to the Florida Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act.
Seven service members with security clearances in jeopardy because of a timeshare purchase
Caught in the middle of duelling semantics are those who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. Predatory lending is a risk to our National Security. The seven service members include four active duty service members, two Homeland Security agents, and a retired veteran who works at the Pentagon.
Active duty Navy service member Justin lost in arbitration disputing a $10,000 timeshare loan. He and his wife had purchased the minimum number of timeshare points for their family of six. The judgment against them is $66,000. The difference was mostly the resort’s attorneys’ fees. Justin has served 12 years with the Navy.
Christopher, also a father of four, is also an active-duty Navy service member. The name of the sales manager involved with his transaction is a name we know well. We provided six prior reports about this sales manager. The now seven complaints were similar, almost all about the ability to reduce or eliminate maintenance fees, or be able to sell the timeshare. Christopher has served 18 years with the Navy.
Service members agree that timeshare lending needs to be deemed off-limits – like Payday loan lending.
Bluegreen MLA lawsuit Bluegreen Case No 21-CV-61938-RAR
https://afterinsidetimeshare.com/?p=237 January 28, 2022
Thank you Larry for a very interesting insight into yet another antic by developers and their sales agents to acrue as much as possible, regardless of the possible negative consequences to the consumer. It is quite clear to any reader that this industry is riding roughshod not only on the consumer but also on the basic laws of morality and ethics, it seems that their greed shows no bounds and it is time it was stopped. It is through these articles giving you the facts direct from those affected with the efforts of Irene who spends a lot of time on editing, that you the consumer know the facts about an industry that really doesn’t care.
On that note, it is once again the end of another week, we hope you all have a great weekend, Baby Dog is snoozing on his new day matt & favourite blanket getting ready for his weekend, enjoy, we will.