Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, September 20, 2019

Golfer files amended complaint after Mudge partially granted dismissal in suit over tournament handicap rules

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Feb 15, 2017

After Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge partially granted Sunset Hills Country Club’s motion to dismiss a Granite City physician’s lawsuit over handicap golf rules, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging he suffered severe emotional distress after being suspended and threatened with sanctions.

Zaki Sheikh originally filed his complaint on Aug. 31, 2015. Sheikh, who is a physician licensed to practice in Illinois, says he joined Sunset Hills in 1972 because of its affiliation with the USGA. He alleges USGA rules allowed full handicap to be used in scoring in tournaments, resulting in unlimited play for golfers like Sheikh.


Then in the summer of 2013, Sheikh alleges he entered a tournament at the club and learned that it no longer followed USGA rules, refusing to give a full handicap in match play to a golfer with a USGA-related handicap.

Sheihk alleges he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to the country club. He found it difficult to participate in tournaments, depriving him of benefits promised by membership to the club, the suit states.

Sunset Hills sought dismissal, arguing that the plaintiff is asking the court to intervene in the internal affairs of a private association.

On Dec. 5, Circuit Judge William Mudge partially denied and partially granted Sunset Hills’ motion to dismiss Sheikh’s fourth amended complaint.

Sunset Hills argued that it has discretion while conducting its internal affairs, which is subject to judicial review only when it fails to exercise power consistently with its own internal rules or when its conduct violates fundamental right of a member to a fair hearing, Mudge explains.

Sunset Hills sought to dismiss counts I, II and III, but did not specify which of the nine grounds the motion is based upon.

“The court finds at this stage of the proceedings that the defects challenged … lie in the underlying facts rather than in the pleadings …” Mudge wrote.

He denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss as to counts I and III and said a summary judgement motion is the proper way to establish a factual basis warranting dismissal.

“In particular, whether the defendant exercised its power consistently or in conformity with its own internal rules or by-laws, the USGA rules, afforded an opportunity for a fair hearing or otherwise afforded the plaintiff due process requires the court to delve into matters not on the face of the pleadings to decide the motion.

“The alleged defect challenged lies in the underlying facts rather than in the pleadings, making summary judgment the proper tool,” Mudge wrote.

However, Mudge found that the complaint was deficient on its face and that Sheikh failed to allege sufficient facts.

Mudge wrote that the plaintiff has not sufficiently pled the elements of a breach of contract in count I.

In count II, the plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege facts to establish that the conduct of the defendant was extreme and outrageous, the emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff was severe, and the defendant’s conduct was such that it knew severe emotional distress would be certain.

In count III, the plaintiff failed to sufficiently allege what misrepresentations were made, when they were made, who made the misrepresentations and to whom they were made.

Sheikh was granted leave to file an amended complaint.

He filed his fifth amended complaint on Dec. 26 through attorney Ronald Roth of Roth Law Offices in Granite City.

He argues that Sunset Hills censured him from the country club on Nov. 20, 2013, and suspended his right to play in the club tournament golf for one year.

He alleges the defendant advised him that he would only receive a censure from the board and that no other adverse action would be taken against him.

Sheikh alleges he suffered from severe hypertension and chose not to attend the meeting to avoid “stress, brain hemorrhage and possible death.”

He claims the suspension and subsequent expulsion was “arbitrary and without due process.”

Sheikh alleges he was 76 years old at the time and the defendant knew he suffered from hypertension and that his father died at 77 of a hypertensive stroke.

The plaintiff alleges he appealed to the board in December 2013 to reconsider his suspension and was threatened with further sanctions if he did not refrain from contacting the board.

Sheikh alleges he suffered emotional harm from the suspension and threat of sanctions, which could be medically dangerous for him. He further argues that his wife died shortly after receiving the threatening letter, which he says was a contributing factor in her death.

He further alleges the board changed the rules to benefit themselves, which damaged high handicap golfers.

Sunset Hills filed a motion to dismiss the fifth amended complaint on Jan. 31 through attorney W. Jason Rankin of HeplerBroom in Edwardsville and Christopher Byron of Byron, Carlson Petri & Kalb in Edwardsville.

The defendant argues that the complaint still fails to plead sufficient facts.

In count I, the defendant argues that Sheikh simply added the allegation that, “This constituted a valid and enforceable contract between Dr. Sheikh and Sunset Hills because of the mutual consideration stated aforesaid.”

Sunset Hills alleges the statement is “conclusory and insufficient.”

As for count II, the defendant argues that “neither being threatened with expulsion nor being expelled from a country club can rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct which would justify a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

In count III, Sunset Hills alleges Sheikh failed to plead facts in support of the required elements for a claim of common law fraud and that the defendant had knowledge of an alleged false statement or that it intended to induce the plaintiff to act.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 15-L-1120

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