When the coronavirus pandemic started shutting down the country, lawyers readied themselves for lawsuits. We’ve already seen litigation against various governments and insurance companies. Now comes the wave of lawsuits against institutions of higher learning. Over 150 class action lawsuits have been filed against colleges and universities.
In one case, a college was able to successfully rebuff a lawsuit. It’s a prime example of how exceptional attorney work can successfully defend a client from liability. At Rosenbaum & Taylor, we work hard to protect the interests of our clients. And we’re ready to get to work defending yours today.
First, some general case background on these lawsuits. When the pandemic hit, colleges and universities suspended in-person classes and opted for remote learning. This disrupted not only academic life, but student life as well. However, colleges and universities refused to refund students their tuition, room and board, and fees. Because students had paid for an on-campus student experience, they alleged breach of contract and other claims. That kicked off a number of lawsuits against institutions of higher learning.
Enter the case of “Student “B” v. Howard County Community College. Howard County (Maryland) Community College was sued by a student, known in the court papers as Student B. The student had enrolled in the community college before the coronavirus pandemic. While the college offered an online option, he chose to attend classes in person.
In March of 2020, the community college closed its doors and moved all students to remote learning. Student B sued, alleging (among other claims) breach of contract for failing to provide on-campus learning. The student asked for a refund of tuition and fees.
The court rejected Student B’s breach of contract claim against the college, citing sovereign immunity. This is a legal doctrine that holds that a government cannot be sued without its consent. As a government entity, the court said, Howard County Community College is entitled to sovereign immunity.
There are instances in which sovereign immunity can be waived. This is where having a knowledgeable attorney is key. It’s one thing to assert sovereign immunity, and know how to do it. But the college’s lawyers were prepared to answer objections to the sovereign immunity argument. One objection might be that a government entity can take certain action that waives its sovereign immunity. The college anticipated this, however, by showing that such waiver had not occurred in this case. More specifically, it showed that the student could not produce an enforceable written contract. Such a document might have waived sovereign immunity and allowed the lawsuit to proceed. However, without it, the court dismissed the breach of contract claim.
During the lawsuit, the student stated that he did not know whether a written contract existed. He said that during discovery – the fact-finding portion of the trial – he might have potentially found it. The court called this assertion a “mere speculation that a written contract to provide in-person classes was created and breached.”
A less-prepared attorney might have conceded that the student could have eventually found a written contract. However, a skilled litigator knows that this allows the plaintiff to drag out the case. Since there were grounds to have the lawsuit rejected, the college’s attorney went with it. Another claim was also dismissed, so the entire case was ultimately thrown out. Having the case dismissed is a testament to the tenacity of the community college’s attorney.
When you’re defending yourself in a lawsuit, you want it to be over with as quickly as possible. The earlier a dismissal, the less cost and anxiety about an adverse outcome. You can expect that level of dedication from Rosenbaum & Taylor. We defend our clients by crafting unique legal solutions that meet their needs. If facts arise in a case that allow legal maneuvering to our client’s advantage, we go with it.
Is your business or other organization being sued? Turn to Rosenbaum & Taylor. Call us today to schedule your consultation with our office.