On Monday, May 6, 2019, Anthony and Beth Lennen, named plaintiffs in a putative class action challenging the legitimacy of Marriott Ownership Resorts Inc.’s (“MORI”) points-based, MVC Trust timeshare plan, moved for class certification in the action currently pending in Middle District of Florida.
Filed by Newman Ferrara LLP in 2016, the lawsuit, entitled Lennen, et al. v. Marriott Ownership Resorts, Inc. et al., 16-cv-855 (CEM), asserts that MORI and others developed, and continue to perpetuate a scheme to sell, illusory real property interests in the form of “points.”
As alleged in the Lennen’s Amended Class Action Complaint, MORI markets and sells MVC Trust points which are purported to represent an interest in a MORI-controlled Florida land trust. In truth, the points are no more than contractual-use rights (like rewards points) that give purchasers the right to reserve time at certain properties (held in the land trust) but do not represent any actual real property ownership. In order to create the illusion of a real property transaction, MVC Trust points are conveyed to purchasers using actual land deeds (called “Consumer Deeds”) that are recorded in Orange County, Florida.
Florida law requires that land deeds contain a legal description of an actual parcel of real property being conveyed. However, because MVC Trust points are untethered to any identifiable parcel of real property, it is impossible for the Consumer Deeds to comply with the law. Whereas typical deeds contain descriptions of land that can be located on a surveyor map, the Consumer Deeds refer only to non-public, MORI-generated administrative codes (meant to symbolize point allotments) that cannot be traced or identified through any publicly-available document. As a result, Plaintiffs claim the Consumer Deeds are invalid and the underlying conveyances to each and every purchaser (i.e., the proposed Class members) are void.
Through this action, Plaintiffs assert that Class members are entitled to a full refund of monies paid in connection with their MVC Trust points purchases, including the purchase price, closing costs, recording fees, title, insurance premiums, transfer taxes, and other fees.
Why Class Certification?
Before a class-action can proceed, the class must be certified. Generally speaking, a certifiable class must involve a sufficient number of individuals, who share common legal and factual claims, and who are entitled to a similar form of relief. In this case, it is estimated that tens of thousands of similarly-situated purchasers were duped into buying MORI’s timeshare points. Because all of these purchasers (i.e., Class members) share the identical claims regarding the validity of the Consumer Deed and other aspects of the timeshare plan, and are entitled to the same form of relief, class certification is the most appropriate way to equitably and efficiently manage the case.
As Plaintiffs note in their motion, one of the risks of proceeding individually is that route would be prohibitively expensive and there would be “high risk of inconsistent and incompatible results.” In other words, if many individuals, all with substantially similar claims, were to seek relief in separate cases, they would incur significant costs and may end up getting different judges who render contrary determinations. That result would leave some MVC Trust points purchasers with a remedy, some without, and would leave the legitimacy of the MVC Trust timeshare program, unresolved. To avoid those problems, Plaintiffs argue that the Class should now be certified.
For additional information about the case, please feel free to contact NF partner, Jeffrey Norton, Esq., at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view a recent Law360 article (subscription required) on developments in the case, please use this link: https://www.law360.com/commercialcontracts/articles/1157030?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=section