Couple request class-action status in lawsuit against Hilton Head timeshare

dburley@islandpacket.comMarch 8, 2014 

The Coral Sands Resort property at 66 Pope Avenue on June 11, 2014.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

An Atlanta couple who allege they were misled by a Hilton Head Island timeshare company have asked that their lawsuit be treated as a class action. Hundreds of others potentially have similar complaints about the company, their lawsuit says.

Foster and Janice Watkins were deceived during a sales pitch, and signed a contract with Coral Sands Resort that didn't reflect what they were told, according to the lawsuit filed last month.

Coral Sands is run by Coral Resorts LLC, which also operates Port O'Call at Shipyard Plantation, Island Links and Coral Reef resorts.

Promises made to the Watkinses -- such as a unit by the pool, waived maintenance fees, an available timeshare every Thanksgiving -- turned out to be false, the lawsuit says.

The couple sued for unfair trade practices and filed a motion for class-action status that would allow those with similar complaints to join the lawsuit. That motion is pending.

Attempts Friday to reach the couple were unsuccessful.

Coral Resorts' attorney Nekki Shutt said she intends to ask that the case be dismissed.

"This lawsuit has no merit," she said in a statement.

The Watkinses' attorney, Joe DuBois, said he and law partner Zach Naert have 17 pending cases against the company, all alleging misrepresentation of product and unfair trade practices.

DuBois would not comment specifically on the class-action case, but said his office gets "numerous calls every day" with complaints about the company.

In December, Coral Resorts sued DuBois' firm over its alleged use of the company's registered trademarks to generate hits on the law firm's website.

The timeshare company accused the law firm of purchasing keywords related to the resorts through search engines such as Google. Those purchases drive the law firm's website to the top of the list when the resorts are searched, the federal complaint says.

The resorts lost business because potential customers were led to assume there was an affiliation between the law firm and the timeshares, according to the lawsuit.

Naert & DuBois filed a motion to dismiss the suit, which is pending, according to federal court records.

Coral Resorts has faced scrutiny over its practices before.

In 2005, the S.C. Real Estate Commission met with Coral Resorts representatives to discuss sales practices after it received a number of complaints that were "alarming and far in excess of any reasonably acceptable norm," according to a letter from the commission to the company.

Though there was no formal agreement or sanctions, the company promised to hire additional sales staff and an attorney to dispense independent legal advice to buyers. The company stopped keeping a lawyer on site in 2009, its previous attorney Dean Pierce has said.

Related content:

Hilton Head timeshare company sues law firm for alleged trademark violations, Dec. 21, 2013 3 lawsuits claim unfair sales practices at Hilton Head timeshare company, April 6 2013

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