Timeshare operator Westgate Resorts is asking the Supreme Court to review a recent court ruling that slapped it with a $500,000 judgment for what a Tennessee judge called "intentional and fraudulent conduct."
Westgate is headed by real estate magnate David Siegel, whose quest to build a massive 90,000-square-foot home modeled on the Palace of Versailles was the subject of a TV documentary.
In the Tennessee case, timeshare buyers Nathan and Patricia Overton accused Westgate salespeople of using "high-pressure tactics" and making promises that turned out to be untrue during an eight-hour sales pitch.
The Overtons purchased a timeshare unit in Gatlinburg, Tenn., in 2011 for slightly less than $40,000 and said they were promised they would be able to use additional nights at other Westgate resorts for only $59 more per night, the Orlando Sentinel reported. But when they tried to book those nights, they were told they didn't qualify, according to court testimony.
Similar to others
The Overtons' complaint is similar to ConsumerAffairs reviews posted by other Westgate owners.
"We have been owners at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort in Gatlinburg since 2004. This past visit was one of the worst, but we have rarely had a good experience with getting reservations when and where we wanted them," said Anita of Brandon, Miss. "There are always a set of changing rules about what can be booked, splitting weeks, banking days. ... Westgate staff has misrepresented over and over and over."
Westgate lost the case at trial and was also turned down at the state appellate level despite its argument that the treatment the Overtons received was "an isolated foul-up," as company attorney Michael Marder put it.
Outdated offering statement
The Overtons also said they were given a copy of Westgate's Public Offering Statement on a CD but that it was an old statement from 2006 and did not have amendments made after that time.
Since the court ruling in April, lawyers in Tennessee have been reported to be looking for additional clients and observers quoted by the Sentinal speculated Westgate was seeking the Supreme Court review because it feared additional lawsuits.
Florida, home to much of the timeshare industry, adopted new laws this summer that tighten regulation of timeshare sales.