Recently, my colleague Melanie Conroy and I delivered a podcast for the American Bar Association about the tuition refund class actions filed against universities in response to COVID-19 campus closures. We discuss the impact of COVID-19 on colleges and universities, the legal theories underlying the plaintiffs’ claims and likely defenses, the issues raised by anticipated motions for class certification, and some predictions about the progress and potential outcomes of the cases. A link to the podcast can be found here.
I’m pleased to say that I recently published an article, Class Actions: A Survey and Comparison of Federal Law and Maine State Law, that considers Maine class action law in light of federal law, particularly case law in the First Circuit. While class actions are prevalent at the national level, the story thus far has been different in Maine – but that may be changing.
Since 2000, Maine courts have more frequently addressed class action issues. That trend could accelerate, given that plaintiffs may increasingly seek recourse to state courts if the Supreme Court is perceived to be taking a more hostile view of class actions. If this trend continues, Maine law regarding Rule 23 will continue to become more robust. It is likely that Maine law will continue to track federal class action law to some extent, though it has diverged—and may continue to diverge—to some extent as well.
The article provides a primer on the growing body
First Circuit Holds That College Does Not Owe Fiduciary Duties to Students, Rejects Data Privacy Class Action Claims
On March 25, 2020, the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Squeri v. Mount Ida College upheld the lower court’s dismissal of prospective and former Mount Ida College students’ claims against the college and its Board of Trustees arising from the college’s abrupt closure and sale of its campus to UMass Amherst in May 2018. No. 19-1624, 2020 WL 1445400 (1st Cir. Mar. 25, 2020). On appeal, the student plaintiffs urged the First Circuit to dramatically expand students’ ability to sue colleges under Massachusetts law, opening the door to new litigation risks for academic institutions. The First Circuit declined this invitation, noting that Massachusetts law does not allow for the broader theories of liability they sought to assert.
The students’ allegations against Mount Ida and the lower court’s dismissal of their claims
The students’ class action claims arose out of the college’s abrupt and permanent closure after six weeks’ notice to students that they would need to continue their studies
Two Courts of Appeals Issue Decisions Addressing Whether Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Personal Jurisdiction Holding Extends to Class Actions
We have previously written about the Supreme Court’s personal jurisdiction decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773 (2017) and how the federal district courts were applying it. Now, two Courts of Appeals have finally weighed in, issuing the very first appellate decisions addressing whether Bristol-Myers applies to class actions in federal courts.
In Molock v. Whole Foods Market Group, Inc., No. 18-7162, 2020 WL 1146733 (D.C. Cir. March 10, 2020), plaintiffs, current and former employees of Whole Foods, brought a putative class action seeking to recover alleged lost wages. Defendant moved to dismiss and argued that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the claims of nonresident putative class members. The district court denied the motion, and Whole Foods appealed. In a 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit held that the question of whether Bristol-Myers applied to class actions was premature and need not be addressed because no class had been certified and