Trump won his campaign on a platform that promoted him as a hard-hitting businessman who doesn’t back down until he gets what he wants. That worked for about half the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against Trump National Jupiter Golf Club, but the other half still want their money back.
When Trump bought the struggling golf club from Marriott Vacations Worldwide in 2012, he paid the relatively low price of $5 million, but there was a catch. As part of the agreement, Trump had to take on $50 million in debt. The club had a refund policy regarding a deposit members paid when they purchased their membership. But when members wanted out of the club, it couldn’t afford to refund all their deposits.
Rather than pay up, as agreed, Trump did what he does best: he allegedly played hardball. He allegedly told the members they could cancel their membership, after which they would no longer be allowed to use the club’s facilities, but they would have to continue paying their membership dues to the club. They were also allegedly told they would not receive their refunds until new members had been found to replace them, which could potentially take years to accomplish.
As the attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out, the most important part of a membership to a club is access to that club. In allegedly taking that away, Trump was effectively taking away the plaintiffs’ membership. To expect them to continue paying their membership dues without receiving any of the benefits of membership (much less the refund on their deposit they had been promised) was allegedly effectively rewriting their membership contracts to include terms to which they had never agreed. Trump denied these claims.
U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the club to refund the 65 members their deposits, plus interest. All together the club will be made to pay almost $6 million to its former members.
In the mean time, Trump put to good use the almost four years it took for the lawsuit to reach this point – he urged the plaintiffs to reconsider and keep their membership at the golf club. His efforts paid off because more than half the plaintiffs ended up changing their minds and taking their names off the resignation list.
Although he lost in court and will still have to pay millions to the plaintiffs who refused to settle, his success with the plaintiffs who did pull out will allow the club to keep tens of millions of dollars in deposits and provide services to the remaining members.
In his written decision on the matter, Judge Marra did not refer to Trump as the president of the United States. Instead, he noted that, because the events involved in the lawsuit took place before the election, the Court would continue to refer to him as a private citizen regarding his business practices as owner of the Jupiter Golf Club.
Trump did not appear in court himself, although his videotaped deposition was shown in court and his son, Eric, did testify on behalf of the golf club.Super Lawyers named Illinois business trial attorneys Peter Lubin and Vincent DiTommaso Super Lawyers in the Categories of Class Action, Business Litigation and Consumer Rights Litigation. DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle’s Illinois business trial lawyers have over a quarter of century of experience in litigating complex class action, copyright, non-compete agreement, trademark and libel suits, consumer rights and many different types of business and commercial litigation disputes including lawsuits between businesses or between shareholders and owners of the same business. Our Elgin and Wheaton business dispute lawyers handle emergency business law suits involving copyrights, trademarks, injunctions, and TROS, covenant not to compete, franchise, distributor and dealer wrongful termination and trade secret lawsuits and many different kinds of business disputes involving shareholders, partnerships, closely held businesses and employee breaches of fiduciary duty. We also assist businesses and business owners who are victims of fraud. You can contact us by calling (630) 333-0000 or our toll free number (877) 990-4990. You can also contact us online here.