Trump settles lawsuit with Florida golf club members
  • Thursday, December 13, 2018
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Trump settles lawsuit with Florida golf club members

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    The Trump National Doral Golf Club in 2016. Attorneys for President Donald Trump, who famously declared he doesn’t settle lawsuits, have agreed that the president’s company will pay $5.4 million to former members of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, to end a long-running lawsuit.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. >> Attorneys for President Donald Trump, who famously declared he doesn’t settle lawsuits, have agreed that the president’s company will pay $5.4 million to former members of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, to end a long-running lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra, who last year ordered Trump’s company to pay former members $5.8 million in damages, signed off on the agreement last week.

“This settlement provides for a fundamentally fair, reasonable, and adequate resolution that will produce a substantial cash payment for every class member,” Marra wrote.

The judge was referring to the 65 former members who sued the club, claiming Trump refused to refund their deposits and blocked them from using the club on Donald Ross Road in Jupiter after he bought it in 2012 for a bargain price of $5 million.

Trump had appealed Marra’s ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Oral arguments were scheduled for May. Instead, a final hearing on the settlement will be held April 20.

Attorneys representing Trump and the former members weren’t immediately available for comment.

During a 2016 trial in federal court, club members said Trump changed the rules when he bought the club from Ritz-Carlton. Under the Ritz-Carlton’s ownership, club members could continue to use the golf course and clubhouse even if they had announced their intentions to resign.

But shortly after buying the club, Trump told members: “If you choose to remain on the resignation list, you’re out.” When those on the resignation list tried to use the club, they were denied entry.

Marra ruled that the club, which was operated by Trump’s son, Eric, had breached its contract with club members.

By refusing entry to those who had announced their intention to resign, Trump revoked their memberships, he ruled. Under the contract, Trump had 30 days to refund the deposits after members were barred. By not doing so, Trump “committed a material breach of the Membership Agreement,” he wrote.

Trump was able to purchase the club for a bargain price because he agreed to accept responsibility for $41 million that Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa owed members in refundable deposits.

During Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, the club was the site where a Breitbart reporter accused Trump’s campaign manager of manhandling her. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg declined to file charges against then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Trump has played the course at least twice since he became president — with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, along with two-time U.S. Open winner Ernie Els, on Feb. 11, 2017, and with pro golfers Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson on Nov. 24, 2017.

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