Recently, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida imposed sanctions on Wyndham Vacation Resorts in the continuing case of Yaeger and Brouwer versus Wyndham. These sanctions include orders for searching email databases, hard drives, sharepoint databases, and other shared databases and producing emails and other documents relevant to the case within a clearly specified time; identifying additional individuals who need to give depositions and producing them for deposition by the plaintiffs; and compensating the plaintiffs for attorneys’ fees and other costs related to filling and pursuing the Motion for Sanctions and reviewing the documents produced.
Background on the Wyndham Vacation Resorts Case
The case against Wyndham Vacation Resorts dates back to 2010, when the Plaintiffs initiated their claims that representatives of Wyndham’s timeshare entities misrepresented their policies during the sales process. The Defendants’ representatives indicated that each Plaintiff would be able to purchase multiple timeshares and operate timeshare rental businesses without any interference from Wyndham. However, Wyndham allegedly changed the rules about reservations and the use of timeshares, thereby interfering with and affecting the profitability of the Plaintiffs’ rental businesses.
During discovery, the court suggested a search of documents from a list of people associated with Wyndham Vacation Resorts using agreed upon search terms be conducted. The Defendants produced documents from 29 people, but limited their review of emails, and many relevant documents were not produced.
The case was transferred to the Federal Court in the Middle District of Florida, and once again the Plaintiffs requested all documents containing relevant search words. This time the Defendants added six members of a senior leadership team to the search and another search term, but removed 20 of the 29 people originally identified as potentially involved because they had not been involved in a project associated with the relevant issues since 2009.
In 2016, the Plaintiffs then filed a Motion to Compel that sought all requested items. In response, the Defendants conducted a search of the company-wide email database using additional terms, but still limited the documents produced to only those of the people already searched. Because the Defendants did not comply with the Court’s 2016 orders, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Sanctions in spring of 2017.
The Court’s Findings
On February 18, 2018, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida concluded that the Defendants had not responded adequately to its 2016 Orders. Instead, the Defendants intentionally disobeyed the Court’s 2016 Orders, and “created significant problems with the administration of justice.” The Court ruled, therefore, that the Defendants should be responsible for the costs of correcting and completing the discovery process.
Furthermore, the Court held that the “Defendants’ conduct [was] willful and contumacious” and that sanctions were “appropriate.” Intended to hold the Defendants responsible for their actions while allowing the case to proceed, these sanctions include:
- Conducting a search of the company wide email database from 2005 to present for all emails containing specified terms
- Providing a list of all people who could have had information relevant to the cases
- Meeting to confer and agree on a final list of people who should be interviewed
- Conducting searches of hard drives, Sharepoint databases, and other databased related to those people identified as being potentially involved
- Producing all emails related to a particular email message called “Megarenter Rap” within 30 days
- Interviewing the author of the “Megarenter Rap” email
- Producing, at their expense, individuals requested by Plaintiffs for deposition in Orange County, Florida
- Paying Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs related to filing and pursuing the Motion for Sanctions and their review of documents produced between July 5, 2016 and the completion of the documents produced under the new Order.