Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The great weight of authority generally holds that the law recognizes no cause of action for "educational malpractice," either in tort or contract, by a student against a private educational institution asserting inadequate or improper instruction. Such a claim runs afoul of established public policy which both accords educational institutions broad discretion in matters purely academic, and directs judicial non-interference in the decisions with that discretion.
Miller was a part-time student in the evening division of Loyola University of New Orleans School of Law. In the fall semester of 2000, he enrolled in a course entitled "The Legal Profession," which was a course for professional and ethical issues related to the legal profession. Professor Cynthia Lepow, a tenured professor on tax law, was selected to instruct this course. Miller alleged several deficiencies in Professor Lepow's instruction. Miller complained that Professor Lepow did not timely order materials for class, that she changed the course time without permission from the law school, Professor Lepow had the students perform class presentations on subjects she was obligated to teach, Professor Lepow only covered approximately 60% of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct with her lectures and all of the student presentations combined, and finally, Professor Lepow gave a final examination consisting of materials from the National Conference of Bar Examiners and her original questions, which contained serious errors. Miller was not present when the course evaluations were distributed, so he went to the Dean's office and requested he be allowed to complete a student evaluation. After Miller lodged his various complaints, he met with the Associate Dean of the Law School, Rev. Lawrence Moore, S.J., and requested a refund of the cost of the course, that the course be removed from his transcript, and that he be allowed to re-take the class with another professor. Rev. Moore advised Miller to submit a written complaint to the Loyola Law School Faculty Petitions Committee, but the Faculty renounced jurisdiction. A special ad hoc committee reviewed the case and found multiple errors in Prof. Lepow’s teaching, and the Dean sanctioned her. Miller filed this action to recover the cost of the course and other damages including reimbursement for taking the course a second time at his own expense, alleging in substance that Loyola University failed to provide a complete and satisfactory instruction of the subject. Loyola filed a peremptory exception of no cause of action, which the trial court sustained.
Does Miller have a cause of action against Loyola under contract or tort?
Miller cited many contract provisions in the Civil Code, none of which apply to a situation such as this one, where a student complains that the content and quality of instruction in a particular class was insufficient, and that an instructor improperly changed the time of the course. While there were instances where a contractual breach has been found between a university and a student, it has been based on the university's failure to provide a guaranteed service. This was not the case here. The same conclusions may be drawn about tort claims of educational malpractice. Miller asserted that Loyola was negligent in not having enough professors available to teach courses, thus resulting in the negligent quality of instruction. However there was no legal basis to allow such a claim. The Court looked to other jurisdictions and found that there was a persuasive public policy argument against findings a cause of action for educational malpractice that was endorsed by most states. The Court was inclined to follow these other jurisdictions and did not recognize a claim for educational malpractice either in contract or tort. Universities must be allowed the flexibility to manage themselves and correct their own mistakes. In the instant case, Loyola did have a procedure in place to deal with a situation as the one before use. It was not the place of the court system to micro-manage the adequacy of instruction or management at institutions of higher learning, even if it were feasible, which was not. This was a task best handled by the universities themselves.