The Real Deal Miami

Trump faces federal court hearing over Jupiter golf course dispute

Members allege they were cut off from facilities while waiting for deposit refunds

August 15, 2016 03:00PM
By Sean Stewart-Muniz

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Greens at the Trump National Golf Club (Inset Donald Trump)

Greens at the Trump National Golf Club (Inset: Donald Trump via Gage Skidmore)

A years-long membership dispute at Jupiter’s Trump National Golf Club is coming back to bite The Donald this week.

The Republican presidential nominee is facing a class-action lawsuit from former members of the golf club, who allege he stiffed them on $6 million worth of refundable deposits when they tried to resign.

As first reported by GossipExtra, the case is scheduled to be heard at a West Palm Beach federal court on Monday, where judge Kenneth Marra will rule on the suit. According to court documents, the class action could affect up to 150 individuals.

The dispute centers on refundable membership deposits at the golf club, which range from $35,000 to $210,000. According to the suit, members who resign before 30 years enter a waiting list to get their deposits back, with payouts contingent on a new member taking the old one’s place.

Trump came into the picture in 2012 when he bought the ailing golf club, then known as the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa, for $5 million. The club had been losing as much as $4.2 million per year, according to published reports, and the purchase came with up to a $41 million liability from members’ refundable deposits.

Litigation began in May 2013 when Norman Hirsch, Matthew Dwyer and Ralph Willard sued Trump National Golf Club and the club’s previous owners.

According to the suit, Trump switched membership rules after he rebranded the property. Resigned members, who previously still had access to the club’s facilities while waiting for their refunds, were cut off.

As Trump penned in a letter to members, “If you choose to remain on the resignation list, you’re out.” The plaintiffs allege he’s also refused to pay out the refunds since the acquisition.

According to the Palm Beach Post, Trump’s attorneys contend that the refunds weren’t voided, but the plaintiffs are instead trying to cut in front of the waiting list.

Trump’s court battle comes just two months before this year’s presidential election, which pits the Republican nominee against Hillary Clinton. His litigious history and business track record have been major sticking points on the campaign trail.