Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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In this COVID-19 pandemic-related case, the Seventh Circuit vacated in part the judgment of the district court granting Loyola University of Chicago's motion to dismiss this complaint brought by Plaintiffs, three undergraduate students, for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, holding that Plaintiffs pled enough to withstand dismissal for failure to state a claim and that Plaintiffs were entitled to leave to amend to save their alternative claim for unjust enrichment.As a result of the pandemic, Loyola suspended all in-person instruction during the Spring 2020 semester, curtailed access to campus facilities, and moved all instruction online. Plaintiffs brought a putative class action lawsuit against Loyola, arguing that the decision to shut down Loyola's campus deprived them of promised services, such as in-person instruction and access to on-campus facilities, in exchange for tuition and fees. The district court granted Loyola's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs sufficiently pled a claim for breach of an implied contract under Illinois law; and (2) Plaintiffs adequately pled an unjust enrichment claim in the alternative. View "Gociman v. Loyola University of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Harvard University for breach of contract and other related claims, holding that the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff's breach of contract claim.The day before Plaintiff was about to graduate from Harvard three female Harvard students accused him of sexual assault. Following a disciplinary hearing, Harvard withheld Plaintiff's undergraduate degree. Plaintiff sued, and the district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) at the pleadings stage, Plaintiff's allegations, taken as true, stated a plausible breach of contract claim; and (2) the district court properly dismissed the remaining counts of Plaintiff's complaint. View "Sonoiki v. Harvard University" on Justia Law

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Keles was admitted into Rutgers’s Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department’s graduate program and received his M.S. degree in 2014. While pursuing this degree, Keles expressed his interest in continuing his studies as a Ph.D. student. To continue their studies as Ph.D. students, M.S. students in the CEE Department must submit a “Change-in-Status” form, identifying advisors and describing their research plans. At the end of the M.S. program, Keles submitted an incomplete Change-in-Status form. Keles disputed that he needed to submit a completed Change-in-Status form due to his claimed enrollment as an M.S.-Ph.D. student. Members of the CEE Department and the University’s administration informed him that he needed to satisfy the admission prerequisites. Keles neither found an advisor nor submitted a completed form but sought to register for classes in 2015. Rutgers’s Administration informed Keles that his lack of academic standing prevented him from registering.Keles sued, alleging contract, tort, statutory, and due process claims. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his suit, finding that Rutgers adhered to its own policies and did not act in bad faith. All M.S. students were subject to the same departmental requirements. Rutgers afforded Keles sufficient process and did not venture “beyond the pale of reasoned academic decisionmaking.” View "Keles v. Bender" on Justia Law

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The Universities responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by transitioning from in-person to online learning and largely shutting down campus activities. Students and parents sued, claiming that the Universities violated contractual commitments when they transitioned to online educational activities and declined to refund any portion of their students’ tuition and fees or, in the alternative, that the transitions unjustly enriched the Universities.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of conversion claims and claims that the Universities breached express contracts promising in-person educational instruction, activities, and services. They did not plausibly allege a possessory interest in a specific, identifiable fund of money. The cited materials cited do not support the express contract claims. Reversing in part, the court held that the complaints plausibly allege that the Universities breached implied-in-fact contracts for in-person education, on-campus activities, and services. The plaintiffs should be allowed to raise their alternative theory of unjust enrichment. The court also reinstated a claim under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The court acknowledged that the Universities will likely have compelling arguments to offer that the pandemic and resulting government shutdown orders discharged their duties to perform these alleged promises, which must be addressed by the district court. View "Shaffer v. George Washington University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court reversing the decision of the Board of Education of the Jefferson City Public School District to terminate Tammy Ferry's contract with the District, holding that the Board had the authority to terminate the contract.The Board decided to terminate Ferry's contract after she transferred confidential student information from the District's Google for Education account to her personal Google account. The circuit court vacated the Board's decision, finding that Ferry had not "disclosed" confidential student information, as that term is defined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERA), 20 U.S.C. 1232g. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's judgment, holding (1) the Board's findings that Ferry violated the Board's policies and procedure and did so willfully were supported by competent and substantial evidence; and (2) the Teacher Tenure Act authorized the Board to terminate Ferry's indefinite contract with the District. View "Ferry v. Board of Education of Jefferson City Public School District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against the University of Utah for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligence, holding that Plaintiff did not identify a basis for a legal cause of action against the University.After the University dismissed Plaintiff from its neuroscience Ph.D. program, and the decision was affirmed at every level of administrative review, Plaintiff brought his action against the University. The district court dismissed all claims on summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) as to Plaintiff's breach of contract claims, the University was entitled to judgment as a matter of law; (2) Plaintiff's claims for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing failed; and (3) the district court correctly dismissed Plaintiff's negligence claim. View "Rossi v. University of Utah" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals with respect to Plaintiff's constitutional claims, holding that a state university's dismissal of a student for poor academic performance does not implicate a liberty or property interest protected by the Texas Constitution's guarantee of due course of law.Plaintiff was dismissed from Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law after one year due to his failure to maintain the required grade point average. Plaintiff brought this suit against the School, alleging breach of contract and deprivation of his property and liberty without due course of law. The trial court granted the School's plea to the jurisdiction invoking sovereign immunity. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that Plaintiff's procedural and substantive due course of law claims were viable. The Supreme Court reversed in part and rendered judgment dismissing the case, holding that an academic dismissal from higher education does not implicate a protected liberty interest. View "Texas Southern University v. Villarreal" on Justia Law

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The School terminated Pack's employment as a teacher after less than a year and published a press release about Pack on its website, allegedly criticizing Pack, which remains available on the School’s website. Pack sued the School. The Elkhart Truth ran an article later that month under the headline: “Fired Northridge teacher, an atheist, sues Middlebury Community Schools for religious discrimination.” Pack and the School settled that case. The School agreed to maintain a level of confidentiality and agreed to tell Pack’s prospective employers only limited information about him. The parties agreed that neither would disparage the other party. The settlement agreement did not mention the 2014 press release. Pack sued Elkhart Truth in state court, alleging defamation. School Superintendent Allen gave an affidavit supporting Truth’s motion to dismiss. Pack later recruited two acquaintances to call the School and pose as prospective employers. During one call, Allen said that Pack’s termination was “a matter of public record.” During another, Allen said Pack was terminated “for cause.”Pack sued for breach of the settlement agreement. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the School on all claims. The School had no contractual obligation to remove the pre-existing press release from its website, enjoys absolute privilege for the affidavit submitted in the Truth litigation, and did not disclose contractually forbidden information to “prospective employers” because the callers were not “prospective employers.” View "Pack v. Middlebury Community Schools" on Justia Law

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After the University terminated her employment as the head coach of the women's basketball team, plaintiff filed suit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as state-law claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and invasion of privacy.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to the breach of contract and Title IX claims. The court concluded that judgment in favor of plaintiff on the breach of contract claim was proper where a reasonable jury could have concluded that plaintiff's management of funds did not give the University cause to terminate her employment. Furthermore, the University was not entitled to a new trial on plaintiff's breach of contract claim. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to provide the requested jury instruction and any error on the district court's part was harmless. In regard to the Title IX claim, the court concluded that denial of plaintiff's jury instruction was not an abuse of discretion or grounds for a new trial. However, the court reversed the district court's judgment as to the privacy claim and concluded that it failed as a matter of law. The court explained that the facts disclosed by the University were of legitimate concern to the public and the district court clearly erred in concluding otherwise. View "Taylor-Travis v. Jackson State University" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint against Defendant, his student loan servicer, as expressly preempted by the Higher Education Act (HEA), 20 U.S.C. 1098g, holding that Plaintiff's state law claims were not expressly or implicitly preempted by the HEA.Plaintiff raised claims that Defendant violated the Consumer Protection Act, was negligent in its accounting of his payments, breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and engaged in deceit, negligent misrepresentation, or constructive fraud. The district court dismissed the complaint, determining that the HEA expressly preempted Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's state law claims as pleaded were neither expressly preempted by 20 U.S.C. 1098g, nor were they preempted under conflict preemption, and thus the claims survived dismissal. View "Reavis v. Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency" on Justia Law