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Casey v. Fla. Coastal Sch. of Law, Inc.

United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division

August 11, 2015, Decided; August 11, 2015, Filed

NO. 3:14-cv-1229-J-39PDB

Opinion

Report & Recommendation on Motion to Dismiss

Complaining that Florida Coastal School of Law ("Florida Coastal") publicized deceptive and unfair employment and salary data, seven of its graduates sue under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act ("FDUTPA"), Fla. Stat. §§ 501.201-213, seeking $100 million, equitable relief, and class-action status.1 Doc. 74. Florida Coastal moves to dismiss the case "in its entirety and with prejudice" under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing its compliance with American Bar Association ("ABA") standards activates FDUTPA's safe-harbor provision, the plaintiffs insufficiently allege deception, causation, and actual damages, and the statute of limitations bars most of the claims. Doc. 76. The plaintiffs disagree. Doc. 83. The Court allowed them to amend their pleading before, Doc. 69, and they do not seek to do so again, see generally Doc. 83.

I. Overview

Although this case is the first and only of its kind in Florida, many cases against law schools for allegedly publishing deceptive and unfair employment and salary data have been brought elsewhere under various state tort and consumer-protection laws.2 See Ogechi Achuko, The Blame Game: Law Students Sue Their Law Schools for Deceptive Employment Reporting Practices, 20 Va. J. Soc. Pol'y & L. 517 (2013). The plaintiffs in those cases have met with mixed success. Compare MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law Sch., 724 F.3d 654 (6th Cir. 2013) (affirming dismissal of Michigan claims because law inapplicable to purchase of education); Phillips v. DePaul Univ., 2014 IL App (1st) 122817, 385 Ill. Dec. 823, 19 N.E.3d 1019 (Ill. App. Ct. 2014) (affirming dismissal of Illinois claims because plaintiffs insufficiently alleged deceptive act or practice, causation, and actual damages); [*4]  Evans v. Ill. Inst. of Tech., 2014 IL App (1st) 123611-U, 2014 WL 4803004 (Ill. App. Ct. 2014) (unpublished) (same); Gomez-Jimenez v. N.Y. Law Sch., 36 Misc. 3d 230, 943 N.Y.S.2d 834 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2012) (dismissing New York claims because plaintiffs insufficiently alleged deceptive act and actual damages), aff'd, 103 A.D.3d 13, 956 N.Y.S.2d 54 (N.Y. App. Div. 2012); Austin v. Albany Law Sch. of Union Univ., 38 Misc. 3d 988, 957 N.Y.S.2d 833 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Jan. 3, 2013) (same); Bevelacqua v. Brooklyn Law Sch., 39 Misc. 3d 1216[A], 975 N.Y.S.2d 365, 2013 NY Slip Op 50634[U], 2013 WL 1761504 [N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2013] (unpublished) (same); with Harnish v. Widener Univ. Sch. of Law, 931 F. Supp. 2d 641 (D.N.J. 2013) (denying dismissal of New Jersey and Delaware claims because plaintiffs alleged plausible unlawful conduct, ascertainable damages, and causation); Hallock v. Univ. of S.F., No. CGC-12-517861, 2012 Cal. App. LEXIS 1351 (Cal. Super. Ct., July 19, 2012) (unpublished) (overruling demurrer on California claims because plaintiffs alleged plausible deceptive act); Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson Sch. of Law, No. 37-2011-00091898, 2012 Cal. Super. LEXIS 3092, 2012 WL 6039151 (Cal. Super. Ct. Tr. Div. Nov. 29, 2012) (unpublished) (denying summary judgment on California claims because plaintiff's reliance was reasonable and she sustained damages from attending school "that is not what it purported to be").

II. Alleged Facts3

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2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176281 *

TAYLOR CASEY ET AL., Plaintiffs, v. FLORIDA COASTAL SCHOOL OF LAW, INC., Defendant.

Subsequent History: Adopted by, Dismissed by Casey v. Fla. Coastal Sch. of Law, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176284 (M.D. Fla., Sept. 28, 2015)

Prior History: Casey v. Fla. Coastal Sch. of Law, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190515 (S.D. Fla., Sept. 30, 2014)

CORE TERMS

graduates, salary, percent, law school, deceptive, consumer, allegations, accredited, full-time, enrolled, unfair, actual damage, unfair act, misleading, motion to dismiss, omissions, placement, factual allegations, practices, damages, rates, inflated, tuition, average salary, Recommendation, statistics, causation, part-time, career, cases