Court vacates class actions in student’s COVID shutdown suit
A federal appeals court on Tuesday vacated two class actions in a case filed by a student stemming from his university’s one-week COVID–19-related shutdown.
In March 2020, Bradley University, a Peoria, Illinois private university, canceled one week of classes as it migrated to a remote learning format, according to the ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in Orion Eddlemon v. Bradley University.
The university never rescheduled the week of canceled classes and as a result, its spring 2020 semester was only 14 weeks instead of the planned 15.
Mr. Eddlemon filed suit in U.S. District Court in Peoria charging Bradley breached an implied contract to provide 15 weeks of classes in exchange for $17,100 in tuition and an $85 activity fee.
The district court agreed to certify two classes of all students during that semester, a tuition class and an activity fee class.
A three-judge appeals court panel agreed with the university that the district court did not conduct the analysis required to certify the classes.
“The district court’s certification order does not reveal whether the court examined the record. What is evident however, is that the district court repeatedly referred to Eddlemon’s allegations without addressing his proffered evidence…or examining how he would prove his allegations with common evidence,” the ruling said.
“As such, the courts certifications rest on an error of law and amount to an abuse of discretion,” the opinion said, in vacating the district court’s certifications and remanding the case for further proceedings.
Plaintiff attorney Matthew T. Peterson of Varnell & Warwick in Tampa, Florida, said in a statement, “While we think it was unnecessary for the Circuit Court to reverse, it will be very easy to provide the evidence and the court to provide the analysis required by the decision. We look forward to eventually trying this case for the class of students. It is a shame that Bradley has chosen to spend more money on its lawyers defending this case than it would have cost to simply refund the fees to the students in the first place.”
The university’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
In March, the 7th Circuit reversed a lower court and held that a higher education institute’s student may be entitled to a partial tuition reimbursement in connection with his school’s shutdown of in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.