Marriott opposes $2.6M settlement between Ritz owners, Aspen condo association
The Aspen Highlands Condominium Association and timeshare owners at the Ritz-Carlton Club have reached a $2.6 million settlement agreement over a disputed affiliation with Marriott Vacation Club Destinations, but not if the hotel giant can help it.
The settlement would end the legal differences between the condo association and more than 200 individuals and limited liabilities companies who own 1/12 timeshares at the Ritz-Carlton Club, which is located at the base of the Aspen Highlands ski area.
Marriott, however, is challenging the settlement, which it alleges was born out of collusion between the two parties.
Marriott and the Aspen Highlands Condominium Association are among the defendants who are being sued in a class-action suit brought on by the Ritz-Carlton timeshare owners. The lawsuit was initially filed in January 2016 in Pitkin County District Court before being transferred in May 2016 to Denver federal court.
The timeshare owners’ suit accuses the condo association, Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corp., and four other defendants of covertly agreeing to affiliate with Marriott Vacation Club without allowing a say from the timeshare owners.
The timeshare owners say the affiliation has diluted the Ritz-Carlton brand, with the value of some fractional-ownership interests decreasing by as much as 80% because of the arrangement with Marriott.
Mediation among the parties has included talks this and last year between counsel for the timeshare owners and condo association, according to a sworn declaration from attorney Jessica Black Livingston, an attorney for the condo association. Livingston’s statement was entered into the case Wednesday, coming on the heels of a joint motion filed Sept. 23 by the condo association and timeshare owners seeking Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher’s determination that the settlement was made in good faith.
Marriott wants all correspondence and documentation related to the settlement agreement, but the condo association and timeshare owners won’t release them, based on arguments in the Sept. 23 motion.
Marriott’s chief concern is that it believes some condo association directors will testify against Marriott in trial as part of an agreement with the plaintiffs to drop them from the suit. The agreement also includes the condo association’s paying $2.64M to the plaintiffs.
The motion also includes correspondence from Marriott’s counsel to attorneys for the timeshare owners and condo association, which accuses the parties of engaging in collusion at Marriott’s expense.
“The Marriott defendants believe that the procurement of this questionable and inconsistent testimony in exchange for the release of claims against (Aspen Highlands Condominium Association) creates the appearance of collusion, to the detriment of the Marriott defendants,” says the motion.
The motion, however, argues that “the resolution they achieved was in the best interests of both the Plaintiffs and (Aspen Highlands Condominium Association) and was reached without any aim whatsoever to injure the interests of the Marriott Defendants.”
The condo association will pay the settlement amount through its board director and officers’ liability insurance policies, the motion says.
Marriott has until Oct. 8 to file a response to the motion, according to court records.
Matt Ferguson is the Aspen attorney representing the plaintiffs. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
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