Welcome

I have discovered that there is no shortage of interesting, sometimes humorous and occasionally outright quirky legal disputes that have a golf connection. Please enjoy

I also invite you to join the Golf Dispute Resolution Linked In group, which you can access here.

Please don’t hesitate to share ideas for either the blog or the Linked In group.

By way of background, I am an attorney who serves as general counsel to a financial services company.  I also frequently serve as a mediator and arbitrator. And, of course,  I enjoy golf, most often at the Yale Golf Course. You can learn more about my experience here.

Now, for the required disclaimer, so I can remain in the good graces of the legal ethics powers-that-be:  This website, which may constitute Attorney Advertising in some jurisdictions, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Best,

Rob Harris
rharris@golfdisputeresolution.com
914-482-2448

 

 

By: Rob Harris

A New Orleans citizens group, City Park for Everyone Coalition, has filed suit against the New Orleans City Park Improvement Association, effectively claiming that the Association has drunk the golf Kool-Aid.

According to the lawsuit, the Association “is determined to dedicate over 40 percent of City Park to golf — something it admits is not particularly profitable in light of the large operating budget City Park has every year… It is so intent on adding an additional golf course, that it may have distorted information and led FEMA to improper conclusions with respect to the appropriateness of building a golf course from an environmental standpoint.”

One certainly can’t question the dedication of the City Park for Everyone Coalition. One of its members, Jonathan “Lloyd” Boover, was in the 12th day of a “tree in” on the future golf course property when he tumbled from his hammock. His partner, “Heart” had bailed out of the arboretal occupation a few days previously.

Don’t underestimate perseverance and teamwork, however. A few days after Boover’s express trip to the ground, a colleague, Beaux, ascended another tree, thereby continuing the siege.

 

By: Rob Harris

PGA Tour caddie Duane Bock makes no claim that he belongs on the cover of GQ.

At the same time, he believes the Tour unfairly has targeted the shorts he was wearing at Bay Hill last weekend–and, as he claims, for the previous fourteen tournaments.

According to Bock, the Tour’s complaint about their color sounds mysteriously suspect  since he is one of the 167 caddies who are plaintiff’s in the recently filed lawsuit against the Tour.

You decide. The pants-that-have-grabbed-so-much-attention can be seen here.

By: Rob Harris

Dog owners contemplating a move to golf club community of Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida should be mindful of tending to their pet’s waste. Or at least, be sure to steer clear of one neighbor.

Here’s the headline; you decide whether to read the article…

Woman Smears Poop On Elderly Neighbor Over Dog Dispute

By: Rob Harris

Thanks to the intervention of the California Court of Appeals, Ready Golf Centers has obtained a ten year extension of its “ concession to run the full service pro shop, satellite range shop, and driving range, and to provide golf lessons at the Sepulveda Golf Course Complex,” one of the seven public courses operated by the city. In addition, Ready Golf stands poised to receive from the city more than $217,000 in attorneys fees.

The court’s decision resulted from a contracting process described by the trial court as constituting “negligence,” and the appellate court as “chaos.” In essence, Ready Golf, who had been operating the concession since 2001, was granted a contract extension only to have the city withdraw it following its approval.

The city’s explanation–consisting of claims that the city attorney’s approval was not reduced to writing and that the final agreement contained non-material modifications approved by the City Council but not the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners–was found to be unavailaing.

Read the full opinion here for a detailed exploration of the sausage making undertaken by Los Angeles city government.

 

By: Rob Harris

Here’s a great lead in for an article on the litigation surrounding a proposed housing and restaurant development:

“The developer has sued the village. Residents have sued the developer. The developer has sued the residents. Residents have sued the village.
Now, the village is suing itself.”

And why, pray tell, is the village suing itself? The actual court pleading can be found here.

In essence, village trustees have alleged that members of the Village of Pittsford, New York’s Planning Board played golf on the dime of the developer, thereby creating a conflict of interest that warrants an after-the-fact rejection of the Planning Board’s unanimous approval of the developer’s project.

According to published reports, the Planning Board’s attorney has denied that the Planning Board members accepted gifts of free golf, although one member says that he did accept a pass to play nine holes before the joined the Planning Board, but denies that the nine hole freebie would have influenced his vote.

From the taxpayer’s standpoint, they now need to foot the bill for the village Planning Board to defend the claims brought by the village trustees.

That seems like an expensive nine holes.

 

 

By: Rob Harris

According to its website, Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club “is a 27-hole championship golf course that has been likened to The Augusta National by Golf Magazine.”

Indeed, the pictures do evoke South Carolina / Georgia pinelands. And, David Barrett’s fine book, “Making the Masters: Bobby Jones and the Birth of America’s Greatest Golf Tournament,” does describe the early financial struggles of Augusta National.

However, I doubt that Mount Vintage Plantation’s website was referencing its own economic struggles as an Augusta National parallel.

A South Carolina judge recently held the club’s pre-bankruptcy owner liable to a group of members from which he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund operating expenses. According to the report, the owner, after acquiring the club, persuaded the members to provide him with $800,000 to fund infrastructure needs for the club. However, he knew the amounts collected would be insufficient, and, according to the members who sued, he used the funds for other purposes.

The court found the  owner liable for negligent misrepresentation, ordering him to repay $341,000.

Meanwhile, having lost the club in bankruptcy, the lending bank has reopened the facility, which is being managed by KemperSports.

By: Rob Harris

The taxpayers of Escondido California may have Judge Earl H. Maas III to thank for saving the city many millions of dollars.

As we previously have discussed, in 2012 developer Michael Schlesinger purchased, and shuttered, the former Escondido Country Club, with the intention of turning the property into a housing development. Certain nearby, determined to preserve the land as open space, obtained signatures to force a ballot initiative. The City Council, however, went a step further, and adopted a resolution to block the development.

Schlesinger commenced suit, claiming that the Council’s after-the-fact action was unlawful in that it targeted his property. He sought invalidation of the ordinance, and, in the alternative, claimed damages for the effective loss of his property.

Judge Maas ruled in Schesinger’s favor on the first issue, declaring the ordinance void. Sounding almost relieved, City Attorney Jeff Epp, according to a published report, said the “ruling may ultimately work in the city’s favor because it severely limits any damages Schlesinger can seek in the second half of his lawsuit, which focuses on whether the city ‘illegally took’ his property.”

The City Council can also portray itself as responsive to the desires of its constituents, while the court has taken it off the hook.

By: Rob Harris

In the shadows of the prosecution of Bernie Madoff, Stanford International Bank, Limited, founded by Allen Stanford, similarly was arrested and charged with operating a large ponzi scheme, defrauding investors with fictional reports of high investment returns.

In the aftermath, the courts appointed a receiver whose job was to track down assets ostensibly belonging to Stanford, which would be available for distribution to creditors. The receiver’s diligence led it to the doorstep of Golf Channel, which, by virtue of an opinion issued by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, has been directed to disgorge $5.9 million it received from Stanford.

As the opinion explains,

Beginning in 2005, Stanford developed a plan to increase awareness of its brand among sports audiences. It targeted this group because of its large proportion of high-net-worth individuals, the people most likely to invest with Stanford. Stanford became a title sponsor of the Stanford St. Jude’s Championship, an annual PGA Tour event held in Memphis, Tennessee. Upon hearing of Stanford’s sponsorship, The Golf Channel, Inc., which broadcasted the tournament, offered Stanford an advertising package to augment its marketing efforts. In October 2006, Stanford entered into a two-year agreement with Golf Channel for a range of marketing services including but not limited to: commercial airtime (682 commercials per year); live coverage of the Stanford St. Jude’s Championship with interspersed messaging regarding Stanford’s charitable contributions, products, and brand; display of the Stanford Logo throughout the event; promotion of Stanford as the sponsor of tournament-update segments that included video highlights every half-hour; and identification of Stanford as a sponsor of Golf Channel’s coverage of the U.S. Open (one of the four major annual golf tournaments in the world)…  Stanford satisfied most of its monthly payment obligations to Golf Channel and, before the agreement expired, entered into a four-year renewal.By the time this lawsuit was initiated, Stanford had paid at least $5.9 million to Golf Channel pursuant to the agreement.

When the receiver knocked on Golf Channel’s door, seeking return of the $5.9 million, Golf Channel responded as one would expect: “hey, we were paid to provide advertising and marketing services, we did what we agreed to do, leave us alone.”

Seems to make sense. Except for a statute known as the Texas UniformFraudulent Transfer Act (TUFTA). As similar statutes in other states, TUFTA permits the recapture of transfers deemed fraudulent. But what’s fraudulent about Golf Channel receiving money to provide services?

Under the applicable law, transfers made pursuant to a Ponzi scheme are deemed to be fraudulent. Nonetheless. the recipient of the funds–in this case Golf Channel–can defeat the claim of fraudulent transfer if it demonstrates that it took the transfer in good faith (which everyone acknowledged it did) and that, “in return for the transfer, it gave the debtor something of ‘reasonably equivalent value.’”

Herein lies the problem for Golf Channel. While the services it provided may, in ordinary circumstances, have been worth $5.9 million, the test under TUFTA is whether the creditors of Stanford benefited from the services. As the court explained,

While Golf Channel’s services may have been quite valuable to the creditors of a legitimate business,they have no value to the creditors of a Ponzi scheme. Ponzi schemes by definition create greater liabilities than assets with each subsequent transaction. Each new investment in the Stanford Ponzi scheme decreased the value of the estate by creating a new liability that the insolvent business could never legitimately repay.

Because of this, under TUFTA, Golf Channel could not reap the benefit of the monies it received, to the detriment of other creditors. Thus, it has been ordered to disgorge the funds, and join the other creditors as they hope to get cents on the dollar from the assets the receiver manages to collect.

By: Rob Harris

Green Giant trees “will grow from 3 to 5 feet per year and will eventually grow to 50 feet or more.” Skip laurel “grows 10 to 12 feet tall” and “creates a dense evergreen privacy screen.”

These botanical facts could be important for those of you considering purchasing a home abutting a golf course. If you look forward to enjoying the expanses of green fairways, be sure before you buy to read all the relevant land records. Otherwise, like Betty Stibler, one day you may find your view blocked by newly planted Green Giants and Skip Laurel.

Ms. Stibler so far has failed in her attempt to have the courts require her golf club neighbor to remove the obstructing trees it planted. This week, the Tennessee Court of Appeals held that the club’s rights to its property trump her desire to see the golf course.

After finding that the various subdivision restrictions did not preclude the club from planting the trees, the court turned to Ms. Stibler’s claim that the club “had created a nuisance by planting the trees obstructing Plaintiff’s view of the golf course.” Rejecting this claim, the court explained as follows:

“In the case now before us on appeal it is undisputed that Defendant planted the trees at issue on its own property and that the trees in no way encroach upon Plaintiff’s property. Further, it is undisputed that these trees have caused no physical damage to Plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff does allege economic damage resulting from her loss of the golf course view. The facts that Plaintiff previously had a view of persons golfing on Defendant’s property, that this view has been changed by the planting of the trees, and that Plaintiff is unhappy because she no longer has an unobstructed view of a portion of Defendant’s property are simply insufficient to give rise to a claim for nuisance. Plaintiff has directed us to nothing which would give her a protected legal right entitling her to a view of Defendant’s property.”

By: Rob Harris

According to a lawsuit filed by Richard McKnight, a South Carolina State University student, in 1971 the University, as landlord, agreed to lease the Hillcrest Golf Club to the City of Orangeburg.

According to the complaint, the golf course has an estimated market value upwards of $38 million. Not bad, for a golf course. This allegedly makes the golf course the most valuable asset owned by the University.

However, as a real estate investment, the University perhaps did not make such a good deal. The 1971 lease was for a period of 50 years, and gave the City of Orangeburg two options for 25 years. Oh, and the rent? $1.00 per year.

In something of an understatement, plaintiff McKnight alleges the lease “severely restricts [the University's] ability to leverage the property in such a manner to assist it in meeting the current financial challenges.” Gee, I don’t know why–$1.00 per year for 100 years is a hundred bucks.

The complaint seeks rescission of the lease with announced plans to seek money damages if rescission is denied.

 

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