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Students Sue Columbia U Over Covid Shutdown, Win $12.5 Million

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Could Encourage More "Zoom U" Suits and Settlements of Existing Ones

WASHINGTON - eTradeWire -- In still another David v. Goliath victory, students brought a putative class action law suit against Columbia University because of its coronavirus-spurred campus closures, and the Ivy League giant agreed to pay $12.5 million to settle the suit, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who predicts that this unexpected settlement will encourage more such law suits, and the settlement of many already filed.

If Columbia, despite its renowned faculty and reputation, and with its vast legal and financial resources, was forced to settle this law suit and return all the fees the students have paid during the pandemic shutdown, many smaller universities and colleges may well decide that they can't do any better in court than Columbia, and likewise fork over the fees they pocketed for services which were never rendered, argues Banzhaf.

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He points out that $12.5 million is coincidentally the same amount his law students won in a law suit against McDonald's over the fat in its french fries, proving that with the right legal sling shot, tiny Davids can win law suits against mighty Goliaths, and that it can pay to "Sue The Bastards" when they disobey the law.

In this case the judge allowed the students to sue for fees they paid for services never received during the campus shutdown, but not for a partial refund of tuition for having to take classes over the Internet.

But, as Banzhaf reported months ago in an analysis entitled "Students Forced Onto Zoom U Can Sue for Refunds" which followed from his encouragement of such class actions, many courts have handed down tuition rulings in favor of students forced to accept on-line instruction,

As one judge put it in ruling for the students, "This is kind of like purchasing a Cadillac at full price and receiving an Oldsmobile. Although both are fine vehicles, surely it is no consolation to the Cadillac buyer that the 'Olds' can also go from Point A to Point B."

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Similar rulings were also handed down in cases involving, among others, Boston University, Barry University, Florida S. College, University of Michigan, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Ohio State University, Western Michigan University, University of Michigan, Ball State University, University of Toledo, Kent State University, and Ohio University.

Banzhaf's widely circulated report also suggested that some students were likely to sue when their universities tried to force them to pay to have their property, which they were forced to leave behind when they were summarily evicted from their dorms, returned to them.  Shorty thereafter, his own George Washington University, and other universities, decided to drop such charges.

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Source: Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf
Filed Under: Education

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