Trump company settles lawsuit over disputed golf club deposits

(Reuters) - A Florida golf club owned by U.S. President Donald Trump agreed on Friday to pay $5.45 million to settle claims by former members that it wrongfully refused to refund their deposits when they wanted to resign.

The Trump National Golf Club Jupiter is seen in Jupiter, Florida, U.S., November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

The payout is more than 94 percent of the $5.77 million that U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra, who must approve the settlement, last February had ordered the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, to pay.

Lawyers for the golf club and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The club had been scheduled to argue its appeal of Marra’s ruling in May, court records show.

“In our view, the class prevailed,” Brad Edwards, a lawyer for the former club members, said in an email.

The lawsuit began after Trump changed membership rules for the club, which he had acquired from Ritz-Carlton in November 2012.

Under the old rules, members who wanted to resign could keep playing golf until their replacements were found.

But Trump declared in a letter that “as the owner of the club” he did not want them using the club, and “you’re out.”

Marra, in his February 2017 ruling, said this served to cancel the memberships, justifying a return of $4.85 million of deposits to 65 members, plus interest.

In court papers on Friday, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said the former members would recoup about 71 percent of their deposits, after deducting legal fees and expenses.

The lawyers called the settlement “fundamentally fair, reasonable, and adequate.”

The case is Hirsch et al v. Jupiter Golf Club LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 13-80456.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler