Student Sues Liberty University for Refusing to Refund Fees
“claims the school refused to refund unused portions of fees despite ending on-campus services and activities for the rest of the semester”
This is happening at so many schools now, and it’s probably just the beginning.
Student sues Liberty University for refusing to refund fees amid pandemic
Liberty University breached contracts with its students and profited from the pandemic by refusing to refund fees for campus services scrapped when the Covid-19 outbreak hit, an unnamed student has alleged in a federal class action lawsuit against the prominent Christian school.
The lawsuit stands to ratchet up attention first prompted by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s decision to welcome students back to campus last month for online learning, while the virus continued to kill and sicken growing numbers of Americans.
The complaint, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, adds to a trickle of lawsuits demanding compensation from schools that also have halted in-person classes and activities to combat the virus. Drexel University and University of Miami students sued their schools for refunds last week, in separate federal class action lawsuits.
At Liberty, the lawsuit claims the school refused to refund unused portions of fees despite ending on-campus services and activities for the rest of the semester. The lawsuit further alleges that any refunds offered to students have been a “mere fraction” of what the school actually owes. The school offered a $1,000 credit to students who didn’t return to campus residence halls, the lawsuit said.
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The school definitely didn’t profit, and that would be very difficult to prove.
It is not a question of whether the school profited. The School, even though it was through no fault of its own, did not deliver the services (in-person classes, room and board) that the students had paid for. The students are entitled to some refund. The problem will be in determining how much of a refund they are entitled to.
I seem to recall from law school a case from old England in which people had rented balconies overlooking a parade route — maybe a coronation? For whatever reason, the event did not take place or was rerouted or rescheduled or something. The people who rented the balconies demanded their money back. If I could remember more details, I might be able to find that case and see what the holding was. Force majeure?
The original case on this is Paradine v Jane from the English Civil War. Jane rented a field from Paradine; during the Civil War it was occupied by the Royalist forces and Jane was unable to farm it, so he refused to pay rent for that period. The decision, which is still in principle binding both in the UK and the USA, was that a contract is a contract and since it didn’t have a clause saying otherwise he had to pay the rent.
However this was modified by the cases that arose out of Edward VII’s coronation. People rented balconies to watch the parade, but the coronation had to be postponed at the last minute because the King was ill. The courts ruled that this was not the same as Paradine, because the balconies had only been rented for that one event, so if the event didn’t happen the lease was void.
Thanks, Milhouse. My memory of the case was pretty vague.
So, if you were the judge, is the school liable for at least a partial refund?
Obviously it depends on what their contract says.
But really this case isn’t like either Paradine or the Coronation cases. What would be like those cases would be if the university continued to keep the dorms and dining halls open, and therefore refused to refund anything because students were free to use them. The university’s position would be that if students chose not to use the facilities because they were no longer of any use to them, since there were no in-person classes being held, that was their choice but they still had to pay for them. And I would side with the university because this would be more like Paradine than like the Coronation cases.
But if they’re not even offering the services any more then neither of those cases is comparable.
Now if the whole semester had been canceled before it started, then I think it would be like the Coronation cases. The students obviously paid for room and board because they expected there to be classes, so once the classes were canceled the dorms and dining halls were of no use. Similarly I think had Jane’s lease on the field been negotiated just before the Civil War broke out, and the start date was after it was no longer available for farming, then the decision in that case would have been different.
Well, I know that this is a game of telephone and third hand, but that is what the student is alleging.
“Liberty University breached contracts with its students and profited from the pandemic by refusing to refund fees for campus services scrapped when the Covid-19 outbreak hit, an unnamed student has alleged in a federal class action lawsuit against the prominent Christian school.”