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Verdicts & Settlements

Trump National Golf Club Settles Class Action for $5.45m

— February 26, 2018

Trump National Golf Club in Florida agreed to pay nearly $5.50 million as part of a part of a class action settlement.

The hefty payout stems from a regulatory overhaul led by Donald Trump before he became president. Litigants claimed a change in club policies cheated them out of their money and membership.

According to the Huffington Post, details of the suit and settlement were released Friday. Filed on behalf of 65 class members, both parties reached common ground at a federal court in West Palm Beach.

Trump, writes the Post, changed the membership rules of the Jupiter, FL, club after acquiring it in 2012. Formerly the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa, the business had allowed members who wanted to relinquish their spot to keep paying dues and playing golf until a replacement could be found. Afterward, their membership deposit would be refunded in whole.

Falling into the hands of the Trump Organization, the club adopted a decidedly more parsimonious approach.

A Reuters article on the suit says Donald Trump himself wrote a proclaiming himself “as the owner of the club.” If members waiting to be replaced weren’t willing to pay and forfeit part of their deposit, Trump told them, then “you’re out.”

Rather than playing golf under the same terms and conditions as a regular member, individuals on their way out were given two choices: convert their memberships into ‘discounted nonrefundable deposits’ or quit using club facilities altogether.

At such a high-market property, finding a replacement could be a years-long process.

All the while, former members were asked to sit and wait, their long-held deposits irretrievable.

Another Trump golf course in Doral, FL. Image via Cfmeyers/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-1.0)/claimed as public domain

Trump’s quick restriction breached the club’s contract with members, said U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra, essentially voiding their memberships and cutting off access to facilities.

Marra, writes the Huffington Post, ordered Trump National Golf Club to refund withheld membership fees along with interest. While the judge recommended a $5.77 million payout, the litigants assented to a lower payout in lieu of lengthy appeals.

“In our view, the class prevailed,” said attorney Brad Edwards, who represented the former club members.

Even taking the award into consideration, many litigants still lost out. The plaintiffs’ lawyers told Reuters that, after deducing legal fees and expenses from the settlement, members would recoup approximately 71% of their initial deposit.

Of the compromise, the attorneys said it was “fundamentally fair, reasonable, and adequate.”

From his beginnings in business to his current post as commander-in-chief, Donald Trump has been involved in more than 4,000 lawsuits. He’s used litigation as a weapon against opponents – a tool to sow silence or seek revenge. Trump has also been sued for failure to compensate contractors and construction crews.

Shortly after taking over the Oval Office, he paid $25 million to settle fraud allegations against Trump University, which former students claim was a ‘fraud.’


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