There is a current wave of class action lawsuits against institutions of higher education related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, over 250 class action lawsuits have been filed around the country in response to the cancellation of in-person instruction and campus activities. Students are seeking reimbursement of their tuition, room and board, and fees predominately asserting breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion claims.
Lawsuits of this type have most often been surviving motions to dismiss. However, two cases decided recently, Hassan v. Fordham University and Gociman v. Loyola University of Chicago, resulted in dismissals at the pleading stage, offering hope to schools eager to avoid protracted litigation in the event they become the next class action targets.
In both cases, the courts found there was insufficient material available to identify a specific contractual representation that had been breached. Students also brought claims for unjust enrichment and conversion, which are typically alleged in these types of cases. Unjust enrichment occurs when one person is enriched at the expense of another in circumstances that the law sees as unjust. Conversion is the improper taking of property from another without due authority, with the intent of exercising an ownership over that property. These claims were also dismissed.
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