U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell
ORLANDO — The United States District Court in the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, refused to dismiss almost all claims made by Westgate Resorts against a company and its law firm that Westgate said had scammed a number of its timeshare owners.
Westgate claimed Reed Hein & Associates, which operates as Timeshare Exit Team, or TET, participated in the scam alongside Ken Privett of Privett Law and Schroeter Goldmark & Bender, or SGB Law.
The plaintiffs sued for six counts: tortious interference with existing contracts, violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, civil conspiracy (two counts), misleading advertising and false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act.
The defendants motioned to dismiss all counts, but Judge Gregory Presnell only agreed to dismiss the misleading advertising claim.
Westgate claimed that the defendants “engaged in a timeshare cancellation scheme designed to induce timeshare owners, including identifiable Westgate timeshare owners, to retain TET and to breach their purchase and finance timeshare agreements” for the defendants’ benefit. TET allegedly hired SGB and Privett to send demanding letters to timeshare companies to come to an allegedly outrageous agreement.
For the count of tortious interference, the court ruled that despite the defendants’ argument that Westgate didn’t identify the actual contracts impacted, it did not need to establish the claim, and instead only point out that TET had interfered with contracts.
The court also said that the Unfair Trade Practices Act applied even when the plaintiffs were not strictly customers, but for anyone who could prove that a party had participated in unfair or deceptive acts.
The court also denied the defendants motions to dismiss the two counts of civil conspiracy, which hinged on the defendants claim that Westgate had not properly made its case for tortious interference.
It dismissed the count of misleading advertising, pointing out that Westgate was not a consumer who suffered a misrepresentation, but sided with Westgate on the count of false advertising under the Lanham Act.
“The advertising statements caused identifiable Westgate owners to retain TET and stop making payments as required under their timeshare agreements,” the court said.