A Hilton Head Island timeshare company's bid to toss out 16 lawsuits filed by unhappy owners will be decided next month.
Circuit Court Judge Ernest Kinard said Wednesday that he will rule on more than 50 motions in the cases involving Coral Resorts at hearings Sept. 24 and 25. Those motions include requests by the company to dismiss the cases, and requests by timeshare owners for summary judgment.
Nekki Shutt, an attorney for Coral Resorts, said Wednesday she was pleased the cases are moving forward.
"We asked the court to hold a hearing for our depository motions and they've set aside a time to do that," she said.
The suits are among more than 30 filed by disgruntled owners. Seventeen others are headed to arbitration, according to court records.
In the lawsuits, timeshare owners allege they were misled by salespeople and signed contracts that did not reflect what they were told when they bought.
Coral Resorts denies these claims.
Attorneys for the company say the disgruntled customers are a small but vocal subset of more than 28,000 satisfied owners at four Coral Resorts properties on Hilton Head -- Port O'Call at Shipyard Plantation, Island Links, Coral Sands and Coral Reef resorts.
The lawsuits have been thrust into the public eye because of extensive efforts by Coral Resorts to keep a tight lid on information that could be crucial to the owners' claims. That information includes a transcript of the company's public hearing before a state board that could prove contracts signed by owners were invalid, according to their attorneys. The once-public transcript has been sealed by two courts and a state regulatory body.
The transcript also includes sworn testimony from Hilton Head Island Mayor Drew Laughlin, who is also an attorney for Coral Resorts. He testified that punishing the timeshare business would hurt the island economy.
The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette received the transcript from an unknown, anonymous source last month and published it, believing it is a public document that the public has a right to see.
Despite its publication, it is unclear if the transcript is admissible as evidence in court, the owners' attorneys say.
They plan to file a motion asking Kinard to rule whether they can use the published transcript, they said Wednesday.
That motion would be heard with the others in September at the Beaufort County Courthouse.
Follow reporter Dan Burley on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.