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Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Term, Second Department
November 15, 1996, Decided
[*894] [**778] Judgment reversed without costs and judgment directed to be entered in favor of defendant against each plaintiff in the sum of $ 800.
[*895] In the fall of 1993, the plaintiffs Marina A. Andre and Peter Broome applied for admission to the School of Computer Science and Information Systems of Pace University. Plaintiffs enrolled in the graduate level class CS 502 "Fundamental Pascal Programming", which was the first in a five course sequence of required courses designed by the Pace University Computer Science Departments [***2] leading to a Graduate Certificate in Programming. Prior to the commencement of the course, the plaintiffs met with Dr. Narayan Murthy, Chairman of the Department of Computer Science, for advisement and expressed concern with regard to the adequacy of their mathematical background for the course. Broome had a baccalaureate in English literature. His math background included geometry and algebra taken in high school and undergraduate level trigonometry. Andre had a Master's degree in film. Her math background included a high school class in calculus, and statistics taken at an undergraduate level. Based on their academic records and their discussion, Dr. Murthy assured plaintiffs in substance that their background was sufficient to enter the graduate program and that they would have no problems with the course. The tuition cost for the class was $ 1,655, and plaintiffs paid $ 855 each under the school's installment plan. They attended the first class and were given a rudimentary sorting problem which they had no problem solving. At the second class, they obtained the course textbook "Condensed Pascal" and were assigned several problems from chapter 1 of the book. At the third [***3] session of class, plaintiffs advised Professor Caroll Zahn that they had difficulty in solving problem 1-6. Professor Zahn apparently spent substantial portions of the third and fourth class discussing the problem, while continuing to assign problems from chapter 2 of the book. During the fourth session, Professor Zahn distributed a computer generated solution to problem 1-6. By the fifth session, October 20, 1993, the plaintiffs were still not able to solve the problem, and advised Professor Zahn of their difficulty in understanding the math concepts involved. On October 25, 1993, the plaintiffs met with Dr. Murthy and expressed their dissatisfaction with the course. On October 27, 1993, the plaintiffs officially withdrew from the class. Plaintiffs also distributed a petition dated October 27, 1993, which was signed by approximately 13 students in the class, expressing, inter alia, dissatisfaction with the choice of textbook and the focus on math and science problems. On November 1, 1993, the students met with Dean Susan Merritt and requested a refund of the tuition paid. Dean [*896] Merritt informed them that this was against school refund policy, but offered a tuition [***4] credit for a subsequent semester in which another instructor would be teaching the course. The plaintiffs refused and thereafter each commenced an action to recover the sum of $ 885, based on the following claim: "Tuition refund for class CS 502 which was not what it said in course catalogue $ 855 and a refund for book required for the class $ 30.00". Defendant asserted a counterclaim against each plaintiff for $ 800, representing the remaining balance of the tuition due. After trial, the court entered a single judgment in favor of both plaintiffs, awarding each plaintiff $ 885 in actual damages plus $ 59.73 interest and $ 5.58 in costs, damages of $ 115 pursuant to General Business Law § 349 (h), and punitive damages of $ 1,000. In its decision, the court found the defendant liable for breach of contract, rescission based upon want of consideration, failure of consideration, unconscionability, and misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, educational malpractice and violation of General Business Law § 349. For the reasons stated herewith we reverse the judgment in favor of plaintiffs and direct judgment in favor of defendant against each plaintiff on its counterclaim for [***5] the remaining tuition due of $ 800.
[**779] The relationship between plaintiff and Pace University is contractual in nature ( Prusack v State of New York, 117 AD2d 729, 730; State of New York v Fenton, 68 AD2d 951; Eden v Board of Trustees, 49 AD2d 277; Cardo v Pace Univ., NYLJ, June 2, 1994, at 29, col 5). The rights and obligations of the parties, as contained in the university's bulletins and catalogs became a part of the parties' contract ( Vought v Teachers Coll., 127 AD2d 654, 655; Prusack v State of New York, supra, at 730; Matter of Auser v Cornell Univ., 71 Misc 2d 1084; Silver v Queens Coll., 63 Misc 2d 186). However, the courts of this State have consistently declined to entertain actions sounding in "educational malpractice," although quite possibly cognizable under traditional notions of tort law, as a matter of public policy ( Hoffman v Board of Educ., 49 NY2d 121, 125; Donohue v Copiague Union Free School Dist., 47 NY2d 440, 444). As was stated by the Court of Appeals in Donohue v Copiague Union Free School Dist. (47 NY2d 440, 444-445, supra): "To entertain a cause of action for 'educational malpractice' would [***6] require the courts not merely to make judgments as to the validity of broad educational policies--a course we have unalteringly eschewed in the past--but, more importantly, to sit in review of the day-to-day implementation of these policies." The public [*897] policy considerations underlying judicial noninterference in tort-based educational malpractice claims is equally applicable when the action is brought against a private educational institution and is formulated in contract ( Paladino v Adelphi Univ., 89 AD2d 85; see also, Torres v Little Flower Children's Servs., 64 NY2d 119, 128). In Paladino v Adelphi Univ., plaintiff sought to recover damages for, inter alia, breach of contract based upon the defendant's alleged failure to provide a quality education. In rejecting plaintiff's claim, the Court reasoned as follows: ] "Where the essence of the complaint is that the school breached its agreement by failing to provide an effective education, the court is again asked to evaluate the course of instruction. It is similarly called upon to review the soundness of the method of teaching that has been adopted by an educational institution. There is nothing novel [***7] about a contract action that would permit for judicial intervention into the process of learning. For in effect, the claim still requires judicial displacement of complex educational determinations" ( Paladino v Adelphi Univ., supra, at 89-90).
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
170 Misc. 2d 893 *; 655 N.Y.S.2d 777 **; 1996 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 561 ***
Marina A. Andre, Respondent, v. Pace University, Appellant. Peter Broome, Respondent, v. Pace University, Appellant.
Notice: [***1] EDITED FOR PUBLICATION
Prior History: Appeal from a judgment of the City Court of the City of Yonkers, Westchester County (Thomas A. Dickerson, J.), entered May 16, 1994 in favor of plaintiffs, which awarded each of the plaintiffs $ 2,065.31, and dismissed defendant's counterclaim.
Andre v Pace Univ., 161 Misc 2d 613, reversed.
Disposition: Judgment reversed without costs and judgment directed to be entered in favor of defendant against each plaintiff in the sum of $ 800.
programming, textbook, damages, tuition, graduate, math, malpractice, refund, plaintiffs', teach
Education Law, Civil Liability, Educational Malpractice, Governments, Fiduciaries, Torts, Intentional Torts, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, General Overview, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Fiduciary Responsibilities, Departments of Education, State Departments of Education, Authority of Departments of Education, Breach