A judge takes Glenmoor Country Club to task in case about initiation fees.
Glenmoor Country Club must refund the $30,000 initiation fees paid by two former members after a judge found the club’s membership contract was confusing and unfair.
The case started in January when Ronald and Susan Caley, of North Canton, and Mark and Trudy Gehring, of Louisville, sued the private club in Jackson Township.
The plaintiffs had purchased golf equity memberships at the club several years before. Equity memberships required a higher initiation fee — in this case $30,000 versus $15,000 for a non-equity membership. A member would get all of the money back — or more if the market value increased — upon resigning from the club.
Both families left from the club in 2011 and demanded the return of their $30,000 payments.
Glenmoor said the money wasn’t due, and argued in court papers that the plaintiffs didn’t read the documents governing membership rights and obligations when they joined the club.
“Ignorance of the rules is no defense,” the club’s attorneys wrote in court filings.
Judge Frank Forchione held a bench trial in Stark County Common Pleas Court last month and issued a 26-page ruling on Monday.
It can take years for the club to repurchase an equity membership, and until that happens, resigned members are charged dues of $6,000 a year but can’t use the club, the judge noted.
Those terms were not adequately explained to club members and the club’s written policies were contradictory, Forchione found, although he questioned why the plaintiffs didn’t seek an explanation of the club’s rules and bylaws.
“In practice, Glenmoor is essentially avoiding any obligation to ever repay any resigned member’s equity investment,” the judge wrote. “... The length of time resigned members must wait for repayment is so long that all of the plaintiffs’ equity interest will be depleted before plaintiffs rise to the top of the equity repayment list.”
Forchione ordered the club to pay $30,000 to each plaintiff for breach of contract, minus $4,774.65 owed to the club by the Gehrings. Glenmoor had claimed a higher balance on the Gehrings’ account.
The judge, however, rejected the plaintiffs’ claims of negligent misrepresentation and violations of consumer-practices law, which could have resulted in a higher monetary damages.
Patrick Noser, attorney for the plaintiffs, said they were pleased with the overall outcome, but won’t be completely whole because of the costs incurred in pursuing the case.
Messages seeking comment were left for Glenmoor’s general manager and one of its attorneys.