A deeply divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Thursday resuscitated a class action that seeks to require New York University to reimburse students for tuition and fees they paid when it pivoted to remote instruction in spring 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lower federal court had ruled that the parent of an NYU student who brought the lawsuit lacked standing to sue, and it rejected an effort to amend the original complaint to add a current student as a plaintiff, concluding that the case was unlikely to succeed on its merits. A majority of the three-judge panel supported the lower court’s view that the parent did not have standing to sue, since the parent herself did not suffer harm. But it concluded that adding a current student plaintiff would not be futile, writing that the revised complaint makes “plausible” claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
“In doing so, we join three of our sister circuits that have recognized the plausibility of implied breach of contract claims brought by students seeking partial tuition reimbursements in the COVID-19 context,” the Second Circuit majority wrote.
One of the judges who joined the majority wrote separately to say that he believed the court should not have dismissed the original plaintiff’s right as a parent to sue NYU for unjust enrichment.
The third judge said the majority should not have agreed to hear the amended case, saying the current student’s claims lack merit.