Master v. Country Club of Landfall, 121818 NCCA, COA18-215

Docket Nº:COA18-215
Opinion Judge:BERGER, JUDGE.
Party Name:MICHAEL C. MASTER, and Wife, VIRGINIA A. MASTER, Plaintiffs, v. COUNTRY CLUB OF LANDFALL, a North Carolina Non-Profit Corporation, Defendant.
Attorney:Shipman & Wright, LLP, by Gary K. Shipman, for plaintiffs. Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan, L.L.P., by Steven M. Sartorio and Ward and Smith, P.A., by Ryal W. Tayloe, for defendant.
Judge Panel:Judges TYSON and INMAN concur.
Case Date:December 18, 2018
Court:Court of Appeals of North Carolina
 
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MICHAEL C. MASTER, and Wife, VIRGINIA A. MASTER, Plaintiffs,

v.

COUNTRY CLUB OF LANDFALL, a North Carolina Non-Profit Corporation, Defendant.

No. COA18-215

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 18, 2018

Heard in the Court of Appeals 6 September 2018.

Appeal by plaintiffs from judgments entered 16 August 2017 by Judge John E. Nobles, Jr. in New Hanover County No. 15 CVS 3664 Superior Court.

Shipman & Wright, LLP, by Gary K. Shipman, for plaintiffs.

Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan, L.L.P., by Steven M. Sartorio and Ward and Smith, P.A., by Ryal W. Tayloe, for defendant.

BERGER, JUDGE.

Michael Master ("Mr. Master") and Virginia Master ("Mrs. Master") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") sued Country Club of Landfall (the "Club") for terminating Plaintiffs' country club membership. Plaintiffs appeal from the trial court's denial of their motion for partial summary judgment and grant of the Club's motion for summary judgment, which dismissed all of Plaintiffs' claims with prejudice. Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in the Club's favor because the Club failed to follow its own internal rules and provide Plaintiffs with adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard before an impartial panel. We disagree and affirm the trial court.

Factual and Procedural Background

The Club is a private golf club, organized as a nonprofit corporation under North Carolina law, with the majority of its members residing and owning property within the Landfall community. Plaintiffs purchased property in the Landfall community because of the Club and became members in 2013. Plaintiffs acknowledged that they held a single, family membership rather than two individual memberships and that they were subject to the Club's governing bylaws (the "Bylaws") and rules and regulations (the "Rules & Regulations").

According to the Club's Bylaws, when spouses jointly own a family club membership, "[t]he action of either spouse with respect to the Membership shall be binding on the other" and the Club is not required to "notify or obtain the consent of both spouses." Section 3.12 of the Bylaws, states, in relevant part, that the Club's Board of Directors (the "Board") "may institute disciplinary action against any Member . . . for Good Cause." "Good Cause" is defined as conduct by a Member . . . which the Board or its designee determines, in its sole discretion, to be detrimental to the interests, welfare, safety, well-being and harmony of the Club, its Members or employees; breach of the Club Rules; harassment or abuse, verbal or physical, of Club personnel or other person using the Club Facilities; and such other reasons as the Board shall determine to constitute Good Cause.

The Bylaws further state that the Board shall establish in its Rules and Regulations a procedure for disciplinary action which shall include a written notice to the Member . . . setting forth the charges, provisions for a fair hearing by the Board or a Committee appointed by the Board, and a written notice of the Board's final determination. The Board upon a vote of at least sixty percent (60%) may impose such sanctions as it deems appropriate, including, but not limited to, monetary fines, reprimand, temporary suspension of privileges, or termination of Memberships.

The Club's Rules & Regulations dictate the procedural rules for conducting a disciplinary action against a member. Article VII of the Rules & Regulations state, in relevant part: 7.1 The General Manager and the staff are responsible to the Board of Directors for implementing and administrating the Club Rules & Regulations and reporting rules violations to the Rules and Members Committee [(the "R&M Committee")] as appropriate. The [R&M] Committee shall investigate each violation of Club Rules & Regulations presented to it by the Club staff or a Member.

7.2 If there is sufficient evidence of a violation of Club Rules & Regulations, and/or By-Laws, the [R&M] Committee may, by majority vote, issue a warning letter to the member or recommend to the Board such appropriate disciplinary action as it sees fit, including but not limited to . . . termination of the offending Member's membership at the Club. 7.3 Should the [R&M] Committee recommend to the President of the Board any one or more of the following disciplinary actions: . . . [including] termination of the offending Member's membership at the Club; or any other disciplinary action, other than a warning letter, a Hearing Panel shall be formed to consider the report and recommendations of the [R&M] Committee; hold a hearing to receive both oral and written evidence and comment from the offending member; and render a final decision on the appropriate disciplinary action the offending member will receive. The Hearing Panel shall be composed of four (4) members of the Board appointed by the President and three (3) members of the [R&M] Committee appointed by the Committee Chairman. The President shall appoint the Chairman of the Hearing Panel from...

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