Florida judge tosses college fees lawsuit

An Alachua County circuit judge this month dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Santa Fe College student seeking to recover fees paid to the school while the campus was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Student Rachel Burke alleged in the potential class-action lawsuit that the college committed a breach of contract and was "unjustly enriched" by refusing to refund fees, according to the ruling by Judge Peter Sieg. But the judge wrote that the complaint was "insufficient" to support an allegation of an express contract between the college and the student. 

RELATED: Lawsuits seek refunds for Florida university students that paid for the spring semester

Sieg also wrote that the unjust enrichment argument was barred by a law passed last year to help shield colleges and universities from pandemic-related lawsuits. Burke’s breach-of-contract claim was dismissed without prejudice, meaning she could file an amended complaint before April 6. 

The lawsuit is one of a series of similar legal fights in Florida and across the country about the decisions of colleges and universities to shut down campuses and move classes online in 2020. 

The University of Florida, Florida State University and the state university system’s Board of Governors, for example, have been targeted by lawsuits from students who alleged they did not receive services after making payments.

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