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Orange Lake Country Club, Inc. v. Castle Law Group, P.C.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

December 15, 2017




         This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 62) filed by Defendant Sean Austin (henceforth, “Austin”) and the response in opposition (Doc. 69) filed by the Plaintiffs, Orange Lake Country Club, Inc. (“Orange Lake”) and Wilson Resort Finance, L.L.C. (“Wilson Finance”).

         I. Background

         According to the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 60), which are accepted in pertinent part as true for purposes of resolving the instant motion, Orange Lake develops, sells and manages timeshare properties, including some in Florida, and Wilson Finance provides mortgage financing for some of the purchasers of those properties. (Doc. 60 at 5-6). Individuals who buy timeshare interests from Orange Lake (henceforth, “Orange Lake Owners”) enter into purchase agreements. (Doc. 60 at 6). Under those purchase agreements, in addition to the original purchase price, Orange Lake Owners are obligated to pay a share of their timeshare development's ongoing maintenance fees, assessments, and other expenses. (Doc. 60 at 6).

         Defendant Castle Venture Group, LLC (“Castle Venture”) funds Defendant Castle Marketing Group, LLC (“Castle Marketing”). (Doc. 60 at 8). Along with Defendant Resort Relief, LLC (“Resort Relief”), Castle Marketing solicits timeshare owners, including the Orange Lake Owners, who wish to get out of their obligations under their purchase agreements. Such owners are directed to retain Defendant Castle Law.[1] As one step in the process of getting out of their purchase agreements, Orange Lake Owners who retain Castle Law are encouraged to breach those agreements by refusing to make any more payments to Orange Lake. (Doc. 60 at 14-15).

         The instant case was filed on June 8, 2017. (Doc. 1). On September 21, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 60), which consists of six counts: tortious interference with existing contracts (Count I); tortious interference with advantageous business relationships (Count II); civil conspiracy (Count III); violation of Section 721.121, Florida Statutes (Count IV); violation of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”) (Count V); and temporary and permanent injunctive relief (Count VI). The statutory claim in Count IV is asserted against Resort Relief, Hansen and Austin. The remaining counts are asserted against all of the Defendants.

         By way of the instant motion, Austin seeks dismissal of all six counts.

         II. Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” so as to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 103, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957), overruled on other grounds, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim merely tests the sufficiency of the complaint; it does not decide the merits of the case. Milburn v. United States, 734 F.2d 762, 765 (11th Cir.1984). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual allegations as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. SEC v. ESM Group, Inc., 835 F.2d 270, 272 (11th Cir.1988). The Court must also limit its consideration to the pleadings and any exhibits attached thereto. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c); see also GSW, Inc. v. Long County, Ga., 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993).

         The plaintiff must provide enough factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1966, and to indicate the presence of the required elements, Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1302 (11th Cir. 2007). Conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual deductions or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal. Davila v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 326 F.3d 1183, 1185 (11th Cir. 2003).

         In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), the Supreme Court explained that a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, “but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. at 1949 (internal citations and quotations omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 1950 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         III. Analysis

         Simultaneously with the entry of this order, the Court has entered an order (Doc. 83) resolving a motion to dismiss filed by two of Austin's co-defendants - Castle Law Group, P.C., and Judson Phillips. With one exception, Austin makes the same arguments in his motion as were made by his co-defendants in theirs, leading to the same results. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth in that order, Counts II, V, and VI will also be dismissed without prejudice as to Austin.

         The exception involves Count IV, which the Plaintiffs did not assert against Castle Law and Phillips. In Count IV, the Plaintiffs allege that Resort Relief, Hanson, and Austin violated a recordkeeping obligation under Florida's Vacation Plan and Timesharing Act (“FVPTA”), Fla. Stat. §§ 721.02-721.98. The Plaintiffs allege ...

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