A state court certified a class action by timeshare owners against a developer based on improper timeshare closing fees.
In their lawsuit, timeshare owners Shaundre and Kimberly Laskey. represented by attorney M. Scott Montgomery of Montgomery Law Firm LLC, allege on behalf of themselves and as class representatives that Bluegreen Vacations Limited, Inc., and related entities (collectively, “Bluegreen”) violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”), and engaged in abuse of process.
The case is not yet at issue. The Court certified one of two proposed classes of timeshare owners. Bluegreen’s answer to the Second Amended Complaint is pending.
On their own behalf and as class representatives, timeshare owners allege in their Second Amended Petition that Bluegreen engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by charging timeshare purchasers a “document fee” at each timeshare contract closing for “the preparation and processing of legal documents by an unlicensed individual,” in violation of the MMPA.
8/31/20 ORDER CERTIFYING CLASS, GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING PART PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO DISMISS THE SECOND AMENDED PETITION
Bluegreen unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint on the basis that the timeshare owners paid the document fees over two years ago, outside of the statute of limitations for a claim for the unauthorized practice of law under Section 484.020, RSMo. The timeshare owners, however, responded that 1) they also bring a common law claim for unauthorized practice of law, which is governed by a five-year statute of limitations; and 2) because the document fees are financed, each payment that they make is a new violation that restarts the statutory period. The Court was persuaded by the timeshare owners and denied Bluegreen’s motion.
The Court certified a class of timeshare owners who (a) purchased a Missouri timeshare interest from Bluegreen on or after September 21, 2018, (b) were charged Closing Costs in connection with that transaction, and (c) did not rescind or cancel their timeshare purchase contract.
Bluegreen also argued that the timeshare owners were subject to a mandatory arbitration clause. The Court noted that Shaundre and Kimberly Laskey, the class representatives, did not enter into a contract with Bluegreen containing a mandatory arbitration clause. The Court acknowledged that some members of the defined class might have contracts with Bluegreen containing an arbitration provision, and noted that if so, and if such provision is applicable and valid, those members could be excluded from the class at a later time.
Bluegreen successfully opposed certification of a second class of timeshare owners who alleged that Bluegreen engaged in abuse of process by suing the timeshare owners’ counsel, M. Scott Montgomery, in federal court in Florida for the purpose of “intimidating class participants from pursuing their legal rights.” The Court declined to certify the second class, agreeing with Bluegreen that such class members lack standing to pursue the claims because they are not parties to the lawsuit that is the alleged abuse of process, and have not been damaged by such lawsuit. The Court found that the timeshare owners received uninterrupted representation by Attorney Montgomery notwithstanding Bluegreen’s Florida lawsuit against their counsel.
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Shaundre and Kimberly Laskey, as class representatives
Montgomery Law Firm LLC
BLUEGREEN VACATIONS UNLIMITED INC. AND RELATED ENTITIES
Neale & Newman, LLP (formerly Monsees & Mayer, PC)