Appellate Court Dismisses Fraud Claims Against Jack Nicklaus

By: Rob Harris

Thirty-two months ago, we discussed a federal appeals court decision that permitted a couple who purchased for $1.5  million a charter membership in what turned out to be a failed golf course development to sue Jack Nicklaus for fraud. The couple alleged that they were hoodwinked into thinking that Jack, too, had paid a similar sum for a charter membership based on statements attributed to him in marketing brochures:

  • “When I walked Mt. Holly Club, I was so captured by its potential [that] I thought through all 18 holes. In fact, I have been so impressed with the club and its management team that I became a founding charter member.”
  • “Mt. Holly Club enjoys the ideal alpine setting. I knew from my first visit there that we had been given a canvas on which to design a truly spectacular golf course. I am so impressed with the Mt. Holly Club and its management team that I became a founding charter member. I look forward to seeing you there.”

The plaintiffs alleged these statements were false in that Jack had not paid for his membership but rather he was the owner of an “honorary Founder Membership” for which he paid nothing.

Nicklaus challenged the timeliness of these claims, arguing that they were filed too late, and were barred by the statute of limitations. Over a year ago, the trial court agreed, throwing out the claims. The plaintiffs appealed. Today, they lost their appeal, with the three member court agreeing with Nicklaus that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

While prevailing on what arguably constitute technical grounds, Nicklaus’ attorney took care to note that plaintiff’s allegations were “without merit.”

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