E-mail gets country club member suspended

The recent Florida Court of Appeal case of Shumrak v. Broken Sound Club, 2005 Fla. App. LEXIS 3055 warns country club members to watch what they say in email to their club’s powers-that-be.

Plaintiff Shumrak sent an email to a member of his country club’s board of governors, commenting on the club’s general manager who was under investigation by the board. The board must have taken great offense to Shumrak’s comments, because as a result of the email, Shumrak was slapped with a six month suspension from the club. The board had exercised its sole discretion under an article of the club’s bylaws which allowed for suspension where a member’s conduct might “endanger the welfare, safety, harmony or good reputation of the Club or its members.”

Shumrak sued the club, claiming his suspension was improper. The trial court dismissed on the basis that it could not review a disciplinary decision of a private social club. The Court of Appeal affirmed. It did not buy Shumrak’s arguments that the club was more like a homeowner’s association, thus suspension would implicate property rights and be subject to review. Apparently, because Shumrak would be “suspended” for a limited period of time, and not “expelled,” his property rights were not brought into play.

Shumrak v. Broken Sound Club, Inc., 2005 Fla. App. LEXIS 3055 (March 9, 2005).