In an opinion yesterday, Judge Seibel largely rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by University of Tampa students claiming that the University breached its obligations to them by failing to hold in-person classes.
A newly-enacted Florida statute provides educational institutions with immunity for these types of claims, but Judge Seibel found that applying the statute retroactively would violate due process:
Plaintiffs’ causes of action accrued more than one year before the passage of the statute when the alleged breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion took place. And this lawsuit was filed on May 14, 2020 – also more than a year before the legislation was enacted. The immunity provision in [the new Florida statute], if given retroactive effect, would impair and indeed destroy Plaintiffs’ ability to recover on their already-asserted claims. Retroactive application of the statute thus “would abolish actions that have accrued under the common law,” which “would offend due process.”
With the Florida statute put to the side, Judge Seibel found that the plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged enforceable promises from the University that classes would be held in person:
The Amended Complaint includes screenshots of the Course Catalog depicting the option given to students to select courses given in a classroom setting as opposed to online, screenshots of the Course Schedule Search and Registration tool specifically indicating that the delivery mode of courses would be in-person, and a screenshot of a course schedule indicating the physical classrooms in which the courses were going to be delivered. Plaintiffs also allege that their course syllabi also reference the on-campus locations of their classes, and point to Defendant’s promotional materials, which highlight the equipment and facilities available to students on campus. . . .
[T]aken together, these materials are sufficient to allege an implied contract with the specific term that the classes in which the students enrolled would be held in person.