The Kissimmee, Fla., club and time-share seller Wilson Resort Finance LLC filed suit on June 8 against Castle Law Group PC, claiming the defendants planned a scheme to solicit time-share owners to interfere with the club’s contracts. Castle Law Group is seeking to have the suit thrown out, arguing that it simply represented its clients and did not interfere with contracts.
Castle Law Group PC and attorney Judson Phillips urged a federal court on October 16 to toss an amended suit filed by Orange Lake Country Club Inc. and Wilson Resort Finance LLC, a time-share seller. The suit accuses the firm of targeting time-share owners with misleading advertising. The defendants argue that it is simply representing its clients and not interfering with contracts, Law360 reported.
Castle Law Group and Phillips said that the entirety of the second amended complaint must be dismissed as the claims of tortious interference do not hold up. The firm and Phillips were simply attorneys advising clients, and they were acting solely in the interests of the time-share owners, the motion asserted.
“The time-share purchasers are entitled to seek out and obtain legal advice regarding options for obtaining relief from their time-share contracts, and defendants are under a professional obligation to provide their clients with advice on the validity of the time-share contracts or the necessity of complying with the terms,” the motion said. “Holding attorneys liable for tortious interference with respect to these actions would so restrict attorneys’ ability to counsel their clients as to make application of the tort against public policy.”
Orange Lake and Wilson filed suit June 8 against the firm, along with its affiliates, lawyers and executives, claiming the defendants masterminded a scheme to solicit time-share owners using false and misleading advertising with the intent of using their “time-share advocate” businesses to interfere with Orange Lake’s contracts and relationships with owners, Law360 reported.
The scheme allegedly involves executives Austin and William M. Keever, who under the guise of capital investment firm Castle Venture give funds to Castle Marketing LLC to fraudulently solicit business for attorney Judson Phillips of Castle Law, who is sole owner of the law firm, according to Orange Lake’s amended complaint.
In addition, Resort Relief, of Conroe, Texas, whose owner and founder is Kevin S. Hanson, induces time-share owners via fraudulent and deceptive advertising as well as direct phone calls to retain Castle Law’s services, according to court documents.
Once the time-share owners get in touch with Castle Law, the firm’s employees convince them to default on the promissory notes and mortgages they have signed with Orange Lake in order to buy their time-share interests, the suit said. The Castle defendants convince owners they are legally representing them for a $7,500 retainer fee even though the defendants know the time-share contracts have been made in good faith and are unlikely to be canceled, Law360 reported.
The court previously denied Castle Law’s initial dismissal bid as moot when it gave the country club the chance to amend its complaint. An amended complaint was filed in August, followed by a second amended complaint on September 21. The second amended complaint alleges that the Tennessee-based defendants actively targeted Florida residents, challenging arguments raised by defendant Sean Austin and his company Castle Marketing that the court lacked jurisdiction over his Tennessee-based company, Law360 reported.
The firm argued that the club cannot accuse it of violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) as the club was not one of the consumers who was deceived by the firm’s alleged actions. There is no indication in the second amended complaint that the club itself was misled by the alleged scheme, the firm argued, only that the time-share purchasers were, and the club does not have standing to sue on behalf of the time-share purchasers, Law360 reported.
Additionally, the firm argues that it is not engaged in trade or commerce and therefore it cannot have violated the FDUTPA by engaging in allegedly deceptive trade practices. Its actions in attempting to cancel time-shares was not a trade practice, but a “legal remedy,” it argued.
“Castle Law and attorney Phillips are in the business of practicing law, while plaintiffs are in the business of developing, selling, financing, and servicing time-share resorts and interests,” the firm said. “Defendants and plaintiffs can in no way be said to be in competition with each other.”
Representatives for Resort Relief and Hanson declined to comment and the other parties did not respond to requests for comment from Law360.