Lawsuit

A factual summary of the Developers history in Deerfield Resort
and why a Lawsuit has become necessary.

Background

We (the concerned property owners in Deerfield Resort) DID NOT want this.  We only wanted answers to our questions regarding the existing HOA established by the Developers and an accounting of what expenses the Developers are  using our "Security and Maintenance" fee for.. 

At the heart of this dispute is Fields Development Company, Inc (the Developer) and their insistence they maintain absolute control of Deerfield Resort because of their claim of continued "under development".  In opposition to the Developer's belief are an increasing number of concerned owners whose goal is to maintain Deerfield Resort as Paul Fields original legal documents show:

Deerfield Resort Home Owners Association Original Articles of Incorporation 1986

Deerfield Resort Restrictions  Original 1985

Deerfield Resort Property and Building Restrictions 1986 first amendment 

Deerfield Resort Property and Building Restrictions  August 9, 2000 second amendment

Deerfield Resort Declaration of Protective Covenants and Restrictions  August, 2018

We want to bring the Deerfield community together and protect all property owners investments with a properly organized and managed Property Owners Association (POA) allowing everyone the opportunity to be involved as Paul Fields originally intended. 

Does anyone really want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys, and endure a painstakingly slow legal process?

NO - but, unfortunately, this is where we are... and we are determined to bring transparency and harmony to the Deerfield community. We are spending thousands of voluntary hours split amongst numerous people meeting, accumulating facts, and rallying support all because we want to preserve our beloved community by having it managed according to EXISTING state laws.  

EVERYONE with an investment in Deerfield should be concerned.

There is no personal vendetta against the Developers, but there is an issue with their business practices. 

Multiple attempts have been made to avoid litigation, but the Developers' refusal to answer questions, or even discuss our concerns, and offer mutually acceptable solutions has forced our hand to seek legal assistance. What started with a few property owners asking questions about "HOA" fees and reserves (and getting either no answers or inconclusive answers from the Developers) has now become an issue of legal vs illegal, right vs wrong as the issues being uncovering in this process are multiplying, and very complex. 

Financially, it's estimated that the current "Security and Maintenance" being collected by the Developers is generating $300,000-$400,000 annually.  This combined with additional fees charged to the Condo owners for "HOA" dues, Septic maintenance, and Wall repair it is estimated the Developer-controlled income is approximately $700,000 PER YEAR. 

 

What Deerfield Owners Want

 

  

The future of Deerfield is at stake and should be determined with input from all property owners.

Your property (home, villa, condo, or lot) is an investment that you should have a say in protecting.  With that in mind, here are our objectives:

  •  Court assistance to designate a custodian or intermediary to take temporary control of Deerfield Resort so it may begin to function as a proper POA/HOA, representing the interest of all property owners, under the applicable Tennessee statutes such as:

    • Financial  Accountability for any and all financial transactions of Security and Maintenance Fees paid by property owners

    • UPDATE:  A Receivership has been granted by the court  

    • Document: Receivership Ordered May 12, 2021

    • Obtain a comprehensive listing of all property and related ownership (with contact information) including any sub-associations (condo HOA's).

    • Properly administer and record HOA/POA Board and Committee activity, providing full transparency to the community (including all meeting minutes and records). 

  • Return to the original Deerfield Restrictions from 1986 and follow those restrictions with property owner votes on updated covenants, conditions, and regulations to comply with the State of Tennessee Statutes, continually reviewing and updating as necessary. 

  • Define Deerfield Resort common property (ie: playground, pool, tennis courts)  and recapture any property that was improperly transferred to the Developer in violation of the 85/86 Master Deed and Tennessee state law.

  • Form various committees comprised of volunteers interested in serving and preferably have subject matter expertise, such as but not limited to:

    • Steering Committee

    • Legal / Finance Committee

    • Communications Committee

    • Condo / Villa / Airport Committees

    • Election Committee

  • Develop MINIMALLY RESTRICTIVE regulations that balance individual property owners rights with the POA (and sub-POA’s) regulations,  allowing for clarifications and correction to those who are ignoring the majority-approved rules of the community.

  •  

  • Develop a security plan for the resort encompassing a controlled entrance, guidelines for the safe operation of all motorized vehicles and pedestrian traffic inside Deerfield Resort with periodic patrols for safety and security, and establishing an emergency plan relationship with county law enforcement, fire and rescue, and EMS. 

  • Develop a community master plan for development, land management, routine maintenance and capital improvements, etc.

 

Help us Preserve Deerfield Resort 
with democracy and a proper POA!

Timeline

 

Developers Actions

Dates

Property Owners Actions

Developer
    Dates

Property Owner
         Dates

Developers Actions

1985-86

Deerfield Incorporated, Developer Establishes First Restrictions

800+ acres make up Deerfield Resort.  Approximately 50 acres, including roads, right of ways, swimming pool, tennis courts, playground, etc are deeded to "Deerfield Homeowners Association, Inc. a non-profit corporation". 

There are many key aspects to the original Articles of Incorporation:

Purpose:  "...to provide for maintenance, preservation, and private control of the common areas and roadways" and to promote the health, safety and the welfare of the residents within the property. 

Board:  "The affairs of this association shall be managed by a board of 3 Directors, who need not be members of the Association".

Article IV (roads and transfer of control):   "To maintain all roadways in the Deerfield Resort Area, the same roadways, to be maintained by the developer until 12/31/88 or until 75% of the lots have been sold at which time developer will convey title to the roadway to the association and the association shall assume the responsibility of the maintenance of said roadways." 

Article V & VI (members):  "Every person or entity who is a record owner of a fee or undivided fee interest in any lot or lots which is subject to covenants of record to assessment by the Association, including contract sellers, shall be a member of the Association."  Article 6 defines property owners as members of the Association entitled to one vote for each lot owned.

 

Article VII (meetings):  "At the first annual meeting the members shall elect one director for a term of one year, one director for a term of two years and one director for a term of three years; and at each annual meeting thereafter the members shall elect one director for a term of three years. 

Article IX (amendments):  "Amendment of these Articles shall require the assent of 75% of the entire membership."  

Deerfield Resort Home Owners Association Original Articles of Incorporation 1986

Deerfield Resort Restrictions  Original 1985

Deerfield Resort Property and Building Restrictions 1986 first amendment 

 

8/2000

Rules Modified 2000

No property owners were notified of Significant changes to the  Deerfield Resort Documents:

 

Deerfield Resort Property and Building Restrictions  August 9, 2000 second ammendment

12/2011

Developers Respond to Letter 

 Developers send a response letter stating 

"We will continue to manage the operation and disburse the monies.  We will furnish all itemized accounts at the end of the year. Deerfield owners will be welcome to take over the operations at any time if this is not satisfactory." This letter is signed by Paul and Madeline Fields 

3/2012

Developers Response to Letter of 1/2012

"The recorded Homeowners Association has existed from day one and is recorded with the state. We play annual taxes on the association.  We just have not turned it over to the owners. Would love to do this if we could get everyone to agree on anything. We tried. this a few years ago and it did not get very far."

3/2012

Developers Response to Letter of 3/2012

The response from the developers to the property owners questions," I will personally put in your 70 cents a day for maintenance. I do not have time to quibble with you."

2015

Developer Increased Fee Assessment

Each property owner received a surprise bill with an increased amount for "Security Fees" and "Resort Maintenance Fees" and to make checks payable to "Deerfield Resort, Inc". 

11/2016

Developers Send Letter to Owners About Security/Maintenance Fees

Documents:  Letter from Fields 2016

 

Some quotes from the letter:

"All home and condo owners pay $500 per year for Security and Maintenance.  Lot owners pay half ($250).  Deerfield is a private resort with PRIVATE ROADS.  Campbell county does not want the roads and DO NOT pay a dime to keep them up..."

"Land sales is the only income coming in for Deerfield Resort and that has been nothing for the past 10 years."

"Deerfield is no longer a development"

 

2017

Deerfield Resort Homeowners Association, Inc. Officers

State records from 2017 show officers are:

Madeline Fields, President
Paula LeJeune (Madeline's daughter), Vice President
Scott Fields (Madeline's son), Secretary

8/2018

Deerfield Restrictions Amended with Major Changes unknown to Property Owners:

Documents:  Deerfield Rules 8. 2018

The main changes, which were not voted on by any owner in Deerfield were:

-  Remove all homeowners from having any vote in Deerfield rules and operations.

-  Remove all responsibility from contractors to keep our roads in as-found condition (ie big trucks, accidents, etc).  This also lowers liability on the Developer and/or family members.

- Developer to maintain control forever, until they deem appropriate to turn over to the property owners.

 

3/2019

2018 Developer Income and Expenses  

Documents:  Deerfield HOA Income Expense Statement  2018

 

This only-known copy of an income & expense report from the Fields for maintenance and security that was provided by the Fields after repeatedly being asked where the "Security and Maintenance" Fees are going.  The financials raise more questions than it provides answers.

 

2019-2021

Numerous Reports of Sellers Being Assessed Additional Unknown Fees at Closings  by Developer:

We have received numerous reports of property owners selling or refinancing who, at closing, are being charged by the Developers for"unpaid" Security and Maintenance fees, HOA fees, wall repair fees, or septic fees at closing.  Some of these property owners paid it (sometimes thousands of dollars) in order to proceed with the closing. However those who have objected to these unexpected charges have had the fees waived.  This may be a violation of many housing and settlement laws, and is a flagrant example of the Developer's business practices. 

Recent sellers of the Doe Lane condos where the wall collapsed have had a wall repair special assessment on their  closing documents. This repair assessment was never presented to the residents nor were they given an opportunity to vote on the  repair.  This assessment has been inconsistent and has varied from $800 to $1000. This is not how a "special assessment" typically works.  First, an HOA must vote on it and board members must approve it.  Second, it typically should be spread out over time, monthly (not as a lump sum), and the new owners would inherit the cost of remaining special assessment payments.  The handling of a situation like this should be specified in HOA documents, but those are not available to the residents, and if they exist they are not being followed.

Please, if you have a similar experience, share it with us!

1/27/2020

The Developers Apply for Public Access Marina Slips in Deerfield Cove:

PARC Properties, LLC, owned by Marc and Paula Le Jeune, applied for (and later were successful in getting approval) for 288 boat slips (an additional 240 than existed at the time).  In order to get this approval, they needed to show  public road access and parking accessibility. The plans submitted showed  public access past the Deerfield security gate (which are marketed as"private roads" in a "gated community"), the proposed parking is within the yellow condos parking area creating an undo burden on owners of the yellow condos.

Additionally the owner of the lot adjacent to the yellow villas, simultaneously applied for an additional 52 slips in his name, to protect his waterway interest to his lot and capitalize on the opportunity. 

Documents: 

PARC Application for Docks

Woodson Application for Docks

2/2020

10 Member HOA Board Filed with  the State of TN. Named  Members Were Unaware of being on the Board. 

The Developer provided to the attorney representing  the Deerfield Property Ownersthe State of Tennessee Annual Report showing the list of names indicating a 10 member HOA Board.  However, multiple people who were named as "Board Members" had no knowledge of being on an HOA Board and one member even asked her attorney to intervene with a "cease and desist" letter to remove her name off the list and notify the State of Tennessee of same.

Document:

2019 Deerfield Resort HOA Annual Report

2/2020

2/26/2020

Tennis Courts & Playground Deeded from HOA to Developers Without Property Owners Knowledge

Documents:  Tennis Courts Deeded to Developer 5.2020

Despite being in the middle of litigation over the HOA, comingling of non-profit funds, etc, the Developer thought it was a good idea to deed the land of the tennis courts and playground FROM the HOA ownership TO Fields Development Company.  

3/19/2020

The Developers Retain an Attorney

The Developers hire Preston Hawkins as their  attorney. Mr Hawkins is with the Lewis Thomason Law Firm in Knoxville.

4/2020

Developer Responds to Notice Demand Letter, Claims the HOA is a Nullity 

 

Documents:  Developers Responses to Claims 4.2020,

Response to Application for Court Ordered Inspection 4.2020

In their response, the Developer admitted to most facts of the case (ie: the HOA has never been established or organized and is essentially a "nullity"; control of Deerfield lies with Fields Development Company, Inc, a for profit company; etc.).  

Here is an excerpt from their formal reply: "In April 1986, after Deerfield was launched and the original Restrictions were placed on Deerfield, Paul R. Fields, the President of Fields Development, incorporated Deerfield Resort Homeowners Association, Inc. (“HOA”) as a not-for-profit corporation, which would act as a vehicle for Deerfield property owners to eventually control Deerfield when the development was complete. The development has never been completed. Accordingly, there has never been a need or a use for the HOA, which has taken no substantive action since its inception in 1986. Importantly, the HOA has never been organized or adopted any By-Laws. Moreover, there have never been any official meetings, including annual meetings. The HOA has no employees, no bank accounts, no adopted resolutions, no votes, and no dues. A yearly report is filed by Ms. Fields, President and Registered Agent of the HOA, to the Tennessee Secretary of State to keep the HOA administratively viable in the event that control of Deerfield is eventually conveyed to the HOA. However, other than the annual report to the Secretary of State, no records are maintained by the HOA because it is non-functioning and powerless. Rather, the control of Deerfield lies entirely with Fields Development, a for-profit corporation. Deerfield itself is still under development to this day, with hundreds of acres of prospective property yet to be developed.”

This simplifies the legal issues at hand.  Mainly, can the Developer change documents and do whatever they want, whenever they want, or do they need to abide by their own Master Deed from 1986 and state law? The POA and our attorney are very confident the original Master Deed and state law are clearly on our side.

Interestingly, the Developer refused to provide ANY documentation requested, such as a complete list of all owners within Deerfield Resort; a complete plat of lots in Deerfield along with owners; and many other items the Developer clearly has or has knowledge of, but is simply refusing to provide (apparently until the court forces them to, which should happen eventually).

7/27/2020

Developer Amends HOA Master Deed Without Notice or Approval:

As the "17th" amendment to the Deerfield Condo Owner's Association Master Deed, minor changes were made, without any property owner voting or being notified of the changes (even though the by-laws state 75% approval is required to amend).  One of these changes:  "The Developer Control period extends until the Developer turns control of the Homeowner's Association and the Common Areas over to the Unit Owners to be self-managed" appears to be a violation of state law in that a developer cannot have indefinite control.

8/25/2020

Developers Request a Postponement

During the phone hearing where the developers were to provide answers to POA's "request to compel" from Nov 25, 2019, the Developer's attorney requested an additional 60-day delay.  The judge granted 30 days, and set a hearing for partial summary judgement on 9/23/2020

7/27/2020

1/12/2021

Mediation Requested

The Developers Attorney requests Mediation.

 It is scheduled for March 12, 2021

 

3/27/2021

Developers Attorney Files Motion to Delay

Asked to delay the Hearing for 60 days

4/1/2021

Depositions Requested

The Developers Attorney requested Depositions of Property Owners be set for April 26,  2021 (the day before the hearing).

4/7/2021

Judge Grants 20 Day Delay

The Partial Summary Judgement and Receivership Hearing is set for April 27, 2021.

4/2021

Interrogatories Sent

The Developers Attorney sent Interrogatories to Property Owners. These were completed and returned promptly.

4/21/2021

Depositions Postponed

The Developers Attorney postpones the Depositions stating there isn't enough time to get them transposed for the judge before the hearing.

4/27/2021

Hearing

Attorneys for both sides presented their cases to Judge Boniface

Property Owner Actions

Our Findings: 

Currently the only people making decisions are the Developers.

Our findings: 

Both thresholds, date and lots sold 

have been met, yet  developer still retaines absolute control.

Our findings

 Property Owners have not been asked to vote on anything.

Our findings:

Property Owners have not been solicited to vote on an HOA director.

Our findings: 

Property Owners have not voted on any amendments, yet there have been at least 17 amendments to these by-laws.

1994

 FEES

Fees of approximately $75 annually paid by property owners.

Our Findings:

Again Property Owners were not asked to vote on any. changes to the Articles of Incorporation or the Deerfield Resort Property and Building Restrictions created by Paul Fields.

8/2008

Property Owners Begin Written Correspondence to Developers

Home Owners sent first letter to the Developer requesting information regarding the "HOA".

7/2010

Property Owners Letter to Developers

Home Owners send letter to the Developers requesting the specifics on what the security fees are used for.

1/2012

Property Owners Letter to Developers

Property owners send letter to Developers  requesting HOA information and suggesting the Developers make the "Association" an official and functional "HOA".

3/2012

Property Owners Letter to Developers

This letter asked the Developers what methods are used to determine the annual fee amount and requested list of the expenses for security and maintenance; and since they are now charging these fees how close are they to reaching the point where the HOA is to turned over?

2/2013

Property Owners Letter to Developers

This letter again requested the Developers to provide an accounting of the 2012 maintenance expenses. 

The Developers did not reply.

2013

Community Donation

Bob Hilty organized Voluntary contributions for Road Improvements asking all property owners to donate.

2/2015

Property Owners Letter to Developers

This letter requested the detailed accounting for 2014.

The Developers did not reply.

3/2016

Property Owners. Letter to Developers

Asking why the fees have increased so much; and requesting the detailed accounting for 2015.

The Developers did not reply.

Our Findings: 

Developer confirms these are "private roads" and that community money is needed to maintain them. Additionally, Developer is confirming there hasn't been land sales since 2006, which is exactly the opposite the Developer is saying during current litigation as they try and make the case that they are not done developing so that they can retain control.'

Our Findings:

We're not sure how many people actually paid, but we are certain everyone was not held accountable to pay.  As far as anyone knows there has not been any oversight on how much was actually collected or how these funds were spent, etc.

11/2017

Property Owner Letter to the Developers

Due to the lack of answers from the Developers. the Property Owners requested a complete and full reconciliation of income and expenses for 2014, 2015, 2016 and repeated the question regarding an official HOA as stated in the original Articles of Incorporation.

10/2018

Property Owners Letter to
the Developers 

Requested complete reconciliation of all actual income and expenses regarding Deerfield Resort. Inquired about the "Amended Declarations of Protective Covenants and Restrictions for Deerfield Resort" that were filed in Campbell County

unbeknownst to the Property Owners.

The Property Owners also offered to assist with organizing an official HOA.

The developers did not reply. 

11/2018

Deerfield Property Owners Seek Legal Advice 

Property Owners  in Deerfield met with an attorney for legal advise to find out if anything could be done to get answers from the Developers to their questions regarding the $500.00 "HOA" fee (Is there an HOA? If so, who is running it? What do the "security and maintenance" fees cover? Where are transparent financials? etc.). The Property Owners also wondered if  the Developer was doing anything improper or illegal.

3/2019

Property Owner Receives Developer 2018 Income & Expense Statement

A Property Owner went to the office, requested and received the 2018 income/expense statement from the Developer. A review indicates there are many questionable expenses that do not appear to be security or maintenance.

5/18/2019

TN Court of Appeals Rules on Similar Case Saying Developer Cannot Have Indefinite Control:

Unknown at the time, and right before the committee held the first owners meeting AND hired the 2nd attorney, a similar case was being settled by the TN Appellate Court which is now considered "case law".  The issue at hand was a developer who was trying to claim they had indefinite and absolute control of their community.  That developer lost on appeal, and that case, along with many other state laws, give us confidence we will be successful with our case.

Documents:  TN Case Law 3.2019

6/2019

First Meeting of Deerfield Owners
about Creating a Valid Property Owners Association

All Property owners were invited to attend. More than 100 were in attendance and many clearly expressed a desire for a valid POA.

7/2019

Final Request to Developers Seeking a Meeting Towards a Resolution

Final request a meeting with the Developers in an effort to show sincerity to work together. Unfortunately this request and all previous requests were ignored.

Document: Letter to Developers July 2019

8/2019 

Attorney Retained

With a growing number of property owners supporting the cause to get answers and transparency, these Deerfield owners seek out an attorney. 

12/2019

Lawsuit #1 Filed:

Due to the Developers refusing to sit down at a table with us and work out a resolution, the committee decided legal action was necessary and filed it's first motions against the Developer.

2019 - 2021

Condo HOA's and Docs:

We've received multiple reports about Condo/Villa owners and potential buyers having a number of complaints and problems:

- Repairs not being done properly or at all.  Some exposing the condo association to huge liability such as a retaining wall lying in the parking lot for months in pieces; a fence around the pool in such poor shape it was about to collapse and possibly expose children to a 20 ft fall; walkways that are falling apart with boards or holes that could cause injury; fire sprinkler systems not being installed in a condo building, etc.

- Developer HOA's have not had meetings.   

- Condo/Villa residents and HOA members do not have access to   respective HOA documents.

- Condo/Villa residents have not been informed of what their respective dues are paying for, and do not have a say in decisions regarding their associations.

- Condo/Villa buyers are not able to get inspections done or communicate with anyone reported as an HOA officer..

Documents:  Condo Master Deed 2001

Deerfield Condo Assn Bylaws Amendment 11.2020

Our Findings:

The approval by local officials, the TVA, and TWRA is disturbing considering these "public" slips will need access through the use of "private roads" (as stated by the. Developers in 2016). We have.asked our attorney to look into this. 

2/2020

Attorney Retained; Promptly Filed Motion to Compel Developers to Respond to 10 Questions regarding Deerfield HOA

When it became apparent our cause would need an attorney with litigation experience and expertise in related state laws it was clear we would need a change in legal counsel.

Vic Pryor, a Jacksboro attorney who primarily does litigations and is familiar with real estate law was retained by and for the Property Owners.  Mr. Pryor promptly gathered and reviewed the information from the committee and issued a motion to compel the Developers to respond. The attorney also filed an amended complaint with Campbell County rewriting the original complaint.

3/2020

Attorney Files for Court Order

Property Owners  Attorney files an "Application for Court  Ordered Inspection of Records"

4/2020

Telephonic (Phone) Hearing

Due to Covid a Hearing proceeded via telephone with Judge Asbury. A Motion to compel the Developers to comply with the Plaintiff's request for records was granted by Judge Asbury.

 5/22/2020

Amended Complaint Filed

Amended Complaint adding more Property Owners to the Lawsuit.

7/10/2020

Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Submitted:

Documents:  Motion for Partial Summary Judgment 5.2020

 

POA filed motions for partial summary judgment and judicial relief, motion to compel, and motion for receivership.

8/2020

Motion to Compel filed

A Motion to Compel Response to Amended Complaint was filed in order to get a response from the Developers. 

Via ZOOM: a Hearing was scheduled for July 27, 2020 and a Partial Summary Judgement was scheduled for August 25, 2020.

8/25/2020

New Hearing Date Given Due to Developers Postponement
 

The new date for the Partial Summary Judgement Hearing is September 23,  2020.

9/9/2020

Additional Motions Filed

A Motion for Receivership is filed.

A 2nd Motion to Compel Response for request for Production of Documents is filed.

A Notice of Hearing set for September 23, 2020.

  9/22/2020

Judge Asbury Recuses Herself 

Judge Asbury, just one day before the hearing, recused herself siting "allegations against the defendants are very serious in nature, including allegations of fraud. Since I have a conflict, I am required to forward the recusal to AOC for designation of a judge to hear the case." Everything is put on hold until a new Judge is assigned to the case.

11/05/2020

New Judge is Assigned to the Case

Judge Beth Boniface has been assigned to the case in the jurisdiction of Hamblin County.  Additional work is needed from our attorney to comply with this circuit court rules.

3/15/2021

Mediation

Mediation requested by the Developers resulted in no common ground for settlements or agreements and was terminated by the Developers.

3/31/21
Developers Response to Court Ordered Inspection Received

4/1/2021

Depositions Scheduled

In discussions with the Developer's Attorney requesting Depositions, the Property Owners Attorney hesitantly agreed to date to send out subpoenas, schedule Depositions of the "HOA Board Members" for the same date of April 26,2021 advising him there would be no way to get them transposed by the next days hearing.

4/2021

Subpeonas Sent

The Property Owners Attorney sent subpoenas to various members listed on the 2019 HOA Board Members filing. Subpoenas were sent as a matter of expediency due to the short time frame involved.

4/21/2021

Depositions Postponed Also

The Property Owners Attorney also postpones his Depositions

4/27/2021

Hearing

Judge Boniface heard:

the Motion for Partial Summary Judgement - pending

The Motion to Compel to Demand for Records - Granted

The Motion for a Receivership - Granted

5/12/2021

Receivership Order

Judge Boniface signs the court order putting the Receivership in place.

Document:  Receivership Order

5/26/2021

Partial Summary Judgment Granted

Judge Boniface granted the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

Document: Partial Summary Judgment Ruling

TIMELINE