State seeking to dismiss USF student’s COVID-19 lawsuit

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The lawsuit alleges that by moving classes online, Florida universities made the college experience less valuable.

The State University System has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a University of South Florida student against Florida universities for failing to offer partial tuition refunds to students after canceling in-person classes due to COVID-19.

On Thursday, the State University System and the Florida Board of Governors filed a petition urging the court to dismiss the suit from USF student Jarrett LaFleur, who filed the proposed class action lawsuit against Florida’s 12 public universities in July. He was later joined in late-August by six students representing four other Florida universities.

In the lawsuit, LaFleur, who was involved in a fraternity, engineering societies and intramural sports at the university, alleges that by moving in-person classes online as a precaution to the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida universities made the college experience less valuable, but failed to compensate students by providing partial refunds. 

In their petition to dismiss the suit, the defendants argued the lawsuit could not claim a ‘breach of contract’ because LaFleur failed to produce a written copy of any contract and identify any “actual terms” breached by the universities. The State University System also stated that it “lacks the legal capacity to be sued” and the defendants are exempt from litigation under the principle of sovereign immunity.

Plaintiffs are seeking damages on behalf of students at all Florida public universities who paid tuition and fees in the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters, when schools moved to online classes following the quick spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The other universities represented include University of Central Florida, University of Western Florida, University of Northern Florida and Florida Atlantic University. 

After the other students joined the case, the original defendants, USF and the Florida Board of Governors, were dropped. Now, the case is against the Florida State University System and the 16 members of the Florida Board of Governors in their official capacities.

Members of the Florida Board of Governors include Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and major GOP donor H. Wayne Huizenga Jr., son of the late AutoNation, Waste Management and Blockbuster Video billionaire Wayne Huizenga.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at kelly@floridapolitics.com.



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