Trump's golf club must pay $5.7M to locked-out members, judge rules

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Members of a Florida golf club who claimed they were barred from using the facility after Donald Trump purchased it in 2012 are entitled to return of their money, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled Wednesday that the Trump National Golf Club has to pay $5.7 million in membership deposits and interest to the locked-out members, Politico, Bloomberg and CNN Money report.

The class action suit was filed on behalf of 65 club members who paid deposits ranging from $35,000 to $210,000.

When the club was owned by Ritz-Carlton, membership agreements allowed the members to be placed on a resignation waiting list, and they would get their money back when new members joined, according to Marra’s opinion (PDF). They would be entitled to continue to use the club until their resignation, although they had to continue paying dues and remain in good standing, Marra concluded, based on his reading of the contract documents.

After Trump purchased the club, those on the resignation list were initially informed that they would have no club access, but they wouldn’t have to pay annual dues. The club changed the policy at the beginning of 2013, however, and charged annual dues even while barring the resignation-list members from the club.

Marra found the golf club had recalled the memberships of those on the resignation list by barring them from the facilities. That entitled them to a refund of their deposits within 30 days, he said.

A lawyer for the Trump Organization told Politico an appeal is planned. “The members who resigned were all members under Ritz-Carlton who resigned prior to Trump taking ownership. Trump purchased the club from Ritz and effectively saved it because it was in financial ruin. Notwithstanding the foregoing, we disagree with the judge’s ruling and intend to appeal it,” said the lawyer, Alan Garten.

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