New Orleans, La. -- There's new information in the legal battle a group of New Orleans-area residents is waging against a national resort rental company.
The FOX 8 Defenders started investigating Festiva Adventure Club for alleged fraud a year and a half ago. Now, the first of dozens of possible cases has settled out of court.
"I've been making payments for months you know.... without ever going on a trip or anything," said Ronald Dwyer. On top of monthly payments for the last two years, Dwyer said he dished out a $1700 down payment to be a member of Festiva Adventure Club. A membership that came with a 40-year contract to finance a vacation plan, a term that's longer than the average 30-year house mortgage.
"So we wound up paying a lot of money for nothing.... you know because we didn't go anywhere," said Dwyer.
Like many consumers who turned to the FOX 8 Defenders, Dwyer said Festiva never delivered on its promises for vacations in and out of the country. He's one of two parties named in a lawsuit against the resort rental company and the first to go to arbitration. His attorney, Scott McQuaig, said the arbitrator ruled in Dwyer's favor.
"The contract is void. They have to refund everything that I put in to it... payments, up front payments, and they also have to repair my credit because they reported me to the credit bureau," said Dwyer. He's relieved. McQuaig said the ruling also requires Festiva to pay Dwyer's attorney's fees.
An attorney representing Festiva tells FOX 8, the company is satisfied with the outcome. Miles Thomas emailed FOX 8 the following statement: "There was no finding by the arbitrator of any wrong doing, fraud, misrepresentation or fault by Festiva or any of its representatives. Additionally, there was no finding by the arbitrator that Festiva violated any laws, rules or regulations."
Meantime, McQuaig said besides Dwyer, he represents at least 150 other consumers locally who are Festiva members. He said not one of them has been able to schedule a vacation or receive anything of value, yet they continue to be held to a contract, making monthly payments. In an effort to avoid arbitrating all of those cases individually, he hopes to try them in Orleans Civil District Court. First, he said he'll have to challenge an arbitration clause in the Festiva contract.