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Ferrante v. Westin St. John Hotel Co.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

December 16, 2019

GUY FERRANTE and DEBORAH FERRANTE, Plaintiffs,
v.
WEST1N ST. JOHN HOTEL CO. and VISTANA SIGNATURE EXPERIENCES, Defendants.

          ORDER

          James E. Gates, United States Magistrate Judge

         This case comes before the court on three motions: (1) a motion to compel (DE. 35) by defendants Westin St. John Hotel Co. ("Westin") and Vistana Signature Experiences ("Vistana") (collectively "defendants"); (2) a motion for a protective order (D.E. 40) by plaintiffs Guy Ferrante and Deborah Ferrante (collectively "plaintiffs"); and (3) a motion by defendants to seal (D.E. 46). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion to compel will be allowed and plaintiffs' motion for protective order and defendants' motion to seal will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiffs' Allegations and Claims

         Plaintiffs, proceeding pro se, allege in their amended complaint as follows:

         Plaintiffs purchased three timeshares at the Westin, located on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were managed by Vistana. Am. Coinpl. (D.E. 19) ¶¶ 6-8. Defendants attempted to require them to pay annually for three sets of maintenance fees and points assessments for the timeshares although they never agreed to pay these fees and assessments. Id. ¶¶ 10, 15. As a result of this dispate, defendants formally denied plaintiffs access to all three timeshares notwithstanding the fact that only two carried loans on them. Id. ¶¶ 18, 19. Defendants proposed a settlement to plaintiffs which would have required them to forfeit their accumulated equity in two of their time shares and plaintiffs rejected it. Id. ¶¶ 20, 23. Without notice to plaintiffs, defendants canceled the outstanding purchase loans and foreclosed on two of the timeshares in violation of Florida state law. Id. ¶¶ 24, 25, 38.

         As relief, plaintiffs seek damages for the fair market value of the two timeshares on which defendants foreclosed. Id. at 5.[1] They also seek damages for the fair market value of their interest in the third timeshare on the grounds that defendants have prevented them from using it. Id. In addition, plaintiffs seek punitive damages, and all costs and fees associated with the litigation. Id. Defendants deny the material allegations in plaintiffs' amended complaint. See Ans. (D.E. 21).

         B. Discovery Proceedings

         On 20 February 2019 defendants served on plaintiffs their first set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admission. Defs.' Disc. Reqs. (D.E. 36-2). On 18 March 2019, Guy Ferrante served responses to the interrogatories and requests for admission, but explained in a cover letter that he was not providing written responses to the 13 requests for production of documents or producing any documents in response to them. Guy Ferrante's Disc. Resps. (D.E. 36-3); Guy Ferrante's Ltr. (D.E. 39-3).

         On 6 May 2019, in lieu of serving written discovery responses, Deborah Ferrante served on defendants a statement denying possession of any relevant information sought in defendants' discovery requests. Deborah Ferrante's Stmt. (D.E. 45-3)[2]. In her statement, she asserts:

My name appears as a Plaintiff in this matter because the properties involved are/were jointly titled in my name. I participated in the decisions to purchase the 3 properties that we once owned. I thoroughly enjoyed them while we owned them.
But I played absolutely no role in any of the events leading up to, and culminating in, this lawsuit. I have no answers to-provide. I had no communications with the defendants. I exchanged no correspondence with defendants. I have no documents to disclose. I have no information to convey. There is nothing for mc to admit. I will sit through a deposition if required, but cannot imagine anything productive coming of the process.
I do not deny knowing of the problems that my husband (Guy Ferrante) encountered when trying to get answers about the annual charges from the defendants. But I am not an attorney and may not even fully understand the bases of his position. To the extent that I might remember any details from years ago, though, it would amount to no more than a hazy repetition of what he told me then, and is telling you now.
Please consider this my formal response to DEFENDANTS' FIRST SET OF INTERROGATORIES, REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS, AND REQUESTS FOR ADMISSIONS TO PLAINTIFFS.
I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. 28 U.S.C. § 1746.
Executed on May 4, ...

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