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Federal appeals court reinstates students’ COVID lawsuit against Tulane



In its second such ruling on the matter, a federal appeals court has reinstated putative class-action lawsuits filed by Tulane University students seeking partial compensation for COVID-19-related cancellations of their in-person classes.

This is apparently the fourth case where an appeals court has ruled in favor of students in similar litigation.

Sylvia Jones and John Ellis had filed the lawsuit against the private university in New Orleans, saying they had paid $2,199 per credit hour for in-person classes before they were canceled due to the pandemic, plus additional fees, while online students paid $476 for the equivalent credit hour. according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans i Sylvia Jones v. Administrators of the Tulane Education Fund, et al.; John Ellis v. Tulane University.

The US District Court in New Orleans dismissed the suit. Overturning that decision, the federal appeals court held in a 2-1

opinion that the claim “is not time-barred as an educational malpractice claim because the students do not challenge the quality of the education received but the product received.”

The ruling also said: “We reject Tulane’s argument that the breach of contract claim is barred by an express agreement between the parties, as the subject agreement is unlikely to govern refunds under these circumstances.”

The opinion said the students “have not reasonably alleged” that Tulane breached an express contract promising in-person instruction. “However, we believe that the students have likely alleged implied promises of in-person tuition and on-campus facilities,” it said, remanding the case for further proceedings.

The dissent disagreed with the conclusion that the students had reasonably asserted claims, including those for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, but agreed with the ruling on the breach of contract claim regarding the student’s prepaid, mandatory fees.

In August, in a ruling comparable to at least two other federal appeals court decisions, the 5th Circuit reinstated putative class-action lawsuits filed by a university student who sought reimbursement for tuition stemming from Waco, Texas-based Baylor University’s COVID-19-related online courses.


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