August 7, 2020 – Lawsuit Dismissed Over Failure to Notify Regents
The proposed class action lawsuit detailed in this blog, Rosenkrantz et al. v. Arizona Board of Regents, has been dismissed by U.S. District Judge John J. Tuchi.
In a seven-page order issued July 29, Judge Tuchi tossed the lawsuit over the plaintiffs’ failure to properly notify the Arizona Board of Regents, a public entity, before suing for damages as required by state law. Claims that do not comply with Arizona law are barred, the judge wrote.
“Courts have made clear that a plaintiff cannot file an action for monetary damages under the guise of seeking declaratory relief to circumvent the notice of claim requirement,” the document reads.
June 23, 2020 – AZ Board of Regents Hit with More Lawsuits Over Alleged Refund Refusals
The Arizona Board of Regents faces at least two more proposed class action lawsuits over its decision to refuse tuition and fee refunds for state university students deprived of a full Spring 2020 semester due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to one case, the schools overseen by Regents—Northern Arizona State University, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona—have “unlawfully seized and are in possession of” money paid for services the defendant has failed to provide in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The lawsuit argues the Board of Regents’ call to withhold refunds, including for housing and dining, amounts to a breach of contract as students who paid tuition for a “first-rate education and educational experience” have received instead a “materially deficient and insufficient alternative.”
A second lawsuit, filed by a Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law student enrolled at Arizona State, mirrors the above breach of contract case in alleging the Board of Regents failed to uphold their end of the bargain given they were unable to provide the already paid-for in-person education for roughly 45 percent of the Spring semester.
A proposed class action lawsuit alleges the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) has essentially profited from the coronavirus pandemic by refusing to refund certain costs and fees to students ordered or strongly encouraged to move out as the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University transitioned to online classes for the Spring 2020 semester.
Filed by the parents of two University of Arizona students, the 22-page lawsuit claims that despite the Arizona Board of Regents’ “constructive eviction” of on-campus students and shutdown of all campus activities, the defendant has not offered refunds for the unused portions of students’ room, board and services costs. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that any refunds the defendant has offered have “not been commensurate” with the amounts of money students and their families have lost due to the schools’ transition to online classes.
“ABOR is, in essence, profiting from this pandemic,” the plaintiffs allege, charging that no matter whether the board had a choice in shutting down on-campus living, it is “unfair and unlawful” to retain room and board costs and “pass the losses onto the students and their families.”
Alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment, the plaintiffs demand that the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing body that oversees the state’s universities, return to students unused room and board money on a pro-rated basis proportionate to the amount of time that remained in the Spring 2020 semester before classes moved online and services were halted.
Plaintiffs say universities got it “half right”
As the COVID-19 pandemic began to wreak havoc on just about every facet of life, Arizona universities “were slower to react” to the growing threat while cities, municipalities and states implemented stronger measures to combat the crisis, the lawsuit says. In line with the government and healthcare professionals’ social distancing guidelines, the defendant made the call in March to mandate that students take all classes remotely and, in most cases, stay away from campus for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester in the face of growing concern about the number of COVID-19 cases, specifically at Arizona State University.
The plaintiffs argue that rather acknowledge the sweeping financial strain caused by COVID-19, the Arizona Board of Regents got it only “half right” in making the wise decision to shut down campuses but expecting students and their families to “bear the brunt” of the monetary burden caused by the disruption.
“Woefully insufficient” options
In place of a refund, University of Arizona students were offered a choice between two housing rent credit options, according to the suit. Option A, the case says, offered a 10-percent credit for the 2019-2020 academic year to be applied to a student’s Bursar’s account in May, whereas Option B allowed for a 20-percent credit to be applied to a student’s 2020-2021 academic year on-campus housing. Those who fail to choose either of the options by April 17, 2020 will have Option A selected by default, the case says.
According to the plaintiffs, neither option is sufficient given that the proposed housing and rent credits fail to return the pro-rated, unused portion of students’ room and board payments for the semester. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the 20-percent credit option is inadequate for students who do not intend to live on campus for the 2020-2021 academic years, either because they are graduating, switching to another school or moving to off-campus living. Further still, the plaintiffs claim that the “woefully insufficient” relief offered by the Arizona Board of Regents lacks any refund of the miscellaneous fees that were paid by students but ultimately went unused for part of the semester. Some of these fees, the suit claims, include a recreation center program fee, athletics fee and library fee.
With regard to the other universities, the lawsuit claims that though Arizona State on-campus housing remains open only to students who have no alternative options, the school has not offered or provided any refund of fees for room and board costs. Northern Arizona University, on the other hand, has chosen to maintain the appearance that on-campus living is still a viable option during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawsuit alleges. From the complaint:
At Northern Arizona University, all classes were moved online effective March 23, 2020. Although students were not formally mandated to immediately move out of on-campus housing, given the Arizona state-wide mandate to avoid unnecessary contact with others, public health recommendations from the CDC, as well as the fact that there was no longer a need to remain on campus to attend live classes, many students made a personal decision to move out of their on-campus housing. These factors rendered the ability to remain in on campus housing illusory and any suggestion that students should have stayed on campus is empty, dangerous, and irresponsible.”
Like the other institutions, Northern Arizona University has not offered or provided students any refund of room and board costs, the suit says. Though the defendant claims that remaining on campus is still an option, the truth of the matter, the lawsuit argues, is that residence halls in Arizona “are not designed to safely house students in the event of a pandemic.”
Notwithstanding the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the apparent conduct of the Arizona Board of Regents “is not excused,” the suit says.
Plaintiffs and other members of the Room and Board Class have been damaged in that they have been deprived of the value they paid for room and board while ABOR retained that value.”
Who is covered by this lawsuit?
The plaintiffs look to cover those who paid the costs of room and board for or on behalf of students enrolled in classes at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University or Northern Arizona University for the Spring 2020 semester who moved out of their on-campus housing prior to the end of the semester due to the Board of Regents’ policies and announcements relating to COVID-19.
The complaint can be read below.
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A note on class action complaints:
Bear in mind that the information in this blog post summarizes the allegations put forth in the following legal complaint. At the time of this writing, nothing has been proven in court. Anyone can file a lawsuit, with or without the representation of an attorney, for any reason, and ClassAction.org takes no position on the merits of the suit. Class action complaints are a matter of public record, and our objective on this website is merely to share the information in these legal documents in an easily digestible way.