Donald Trump has claimed that he never settles in court, but his record proves otherwise. Most recently, news broke that Trump's Florida golf club will settle a lawsuit for about $5.45 million. The plaintiffs, 65 former club members, brought a class-action lawsuit against the Trump Organization's Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, and now, years later, it's finally coming to a close.
This case stemmed from 2012, when Trump bought the golf club from the Ritz-Carlton and changed the membership rules as they relate to departing members. Under previous rules, members who wanted to end their membership could still pay dues and use the club until the club found new members to replace them. At that point, the departing members would get back their membership deposits and lose access to the club.
Reuters reported that Trump, however, used the opportunity of buying the club to send the departing members a letter telling them that “as the owner of the club” he didn't want them to keep playing at the club, saying "you're out." They were then given a choice: convert the membership deposit into a nonrefundable deposit and keep access to the club, or simply stop using the club.
The latter option might seem fair, except for the fact that new club members can take years to find. So in choosing that option, the departing members might have to wait years in order to get their deposits of $35,000 to $210,000 refunded. Apparently unsatisfied with this arrangement, the former members got together to sue the Trump Organization for blocking their access to the club without immediately refunding their money.
Trump initially argued that the former members had not been banned from the club a statement that his son Eric Trump, now one of the heads of the Trump Organization, had to eventually repudiate in court.
"We made changes in the rules, which we have the authority to do, but we did not eliminate any membership categories,” Trump organization Chief Lawyer Alan Gartena said according to The New York Times.
Eric had to testify that some members had indeed been banned from club premises though. On top of that, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra wasn't convinced by Trump's lawyers' argument that the Ritz-Carlton would have been unlikely to pay exiting members back. Judge Marra eventually ruled in the former members' favor, claiming that Trump's rule change had effectively canceled the plaintiffs' membership, thus requiring him to pay back their deposits in full according to the terms of their original contracts.
Judge Marra ordered the Trump Organization to pay out the full $5.77 million that the combined dues amounted to, but when the Trump Organization threatened a lengthy series of appeals, the plaintiffs agreed to the settlement of $5.44 million. Bloomberg reported that this gives former members 94 cents for every dollar that they initially put down in their deposits — assuming that the judge approves the deal.
"This is an exclamation point on a big win," the former members' lawyer, Brad Edwards, told Bloomberg. “In our view, the class prevailed,” he said to Reuters.
Trump is no stranger to lawsuits, especially considering all of the properties he owns. One study revealed over 4,000 lawsuits connected to Trump — with many of these continuing into or starting during his time as the president. A multitude of these have indeed ended in settlements, including the famous Trump University case. Back in March 2017, a judge approved a $25 million settlement after former Trump University students accused the program (and its real-estate seminars) of fraud. Now, Trump's got one more settlement to add to his list, whether or not he decides to acknowledge it in public.