August 23, 2022. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit allowed Allison King’s case against Baylor University to continue. Ms. King seeks a refund of tuition and fees she paid for in-person, on-campus instruction and services that Baylor canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court previously dismissed her suit, but the Fifth Circuit revived the case, ruling in part that the district court erred by dismissing her contract claim.
At the end of 2019, Ms. King enrolled in classes and paid tuition and other fees for on-campus services for the Spring 2020 semester. As of March 11, 2020, Baylor University began COVID-19 mitigation by suspending in-person classes and most on-campus activities. The University did not issue any refunds of money paid specifically for courses, amenities, and services designed to be offered in an in-person, on-campus setting. Ms. King sued the University on behalf of herself and all similarly situated students for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The district court dismissed King’s suit, finding that Baylor “did not promise in-person classes or an on-campus educational experience.”
The appeals court rejected the district court’s reasoning, explaining that the contract between Ms. King and Baylor cannot be interpreted without examining the circumstances, context, and communications at the time they entered into their agreement.
“We look forward to pressing forward on behalf of students, who should not be left alone to bear the costs of the pandemic’s impact on the educational system,” said Glenn Chappell, Associate and TZ’s Appellate Practice Group Chair.
The case is Allison King v. Baylor University, No.: 21-50352 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The case that was appealed was No. 6:20-CV-504 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.