Students file $5 million class action against Charlotte School of Law
Updated: Two students filed a $5 million class action lawsuit Friday against Charlotte School of Law and its parent company, Infilaw.
The complaint (PDF) accuses the law school of engaging in misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud. The filing follows the U.S. Department of Education announcement that as of Dec. 31, it plans to cut off the school’s federal student aid, for allegedly misleading current and prospective students about its ABA accreditation status.
“Defendants maintained a relationship of trust and confidence with plaintiffs and the plaintiff class. Defendants took advantage of their position of trust, and made substantial misrepresentations to current and prospective students, in order to realize financial benefit from the tuition and fees paid by current and prospective students,” reads the complaint, which was filed in the Charlotte-based U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.
The ABA first informed the law school that it was out of compliance with various standards in February 2016, and again in July 2016. That information was not publicly disclosed to current or prospective students, according to the Department of Education, until November 2016, when the school was placed on probation. The standards in question include 301(a), which states that law schools must maintain a legal education program that prepares students to be lawyers, and 501(a) and (b), which address admissions policies and practices.
The Charlotte School of Law appealed the ABA finding, and it was upheld (PDF) in October. At that time, the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar placed the law school on probation; it remains an accredited law school.
The Department of Education’s findings about the school can be found here (PDF).
Robert C. Barchiesi and Lejla Hadzic are the lawsuit’s named plaintiffs, and they both knew they were attending a for-profit law school, the filing states. Barchiesi, who enrolled at Charlotte School of Law in 2015, worked as a police officer, according to the complaint. He had been concerned about the school’s admissions practices and thought about applying to other law schools in the summer of 2016.
“Based on multiple considerations, including defendants’ continued representations regarding CSL’s accreditation and compliance with ABA Standards, he elected to remain enrolled at CSL,” the complaint states.
Hadzic also enrolled in 2015. According to the complaint, she would not have returned to the law school in 2016 had she known that it faced accreditation probation.
The students are seeking compensatory and punitive damages for themselves and other similarly situated Charlotte School of Law students. Because there are more than 100 class members, the complaint states, “the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, exclusive of interest, costs, and fees.”
Charlotte School of Law was not aware of being served with a complaint, spokesperson Victoria Taylor told the ABA Journal. “We are currently focused on working to secure the best outcome possible for our students,” Taylor said.
The lawsuit was filed by two North Carolina law firms, Martin & Jones and Shipman & Wright.
Updated at 1:34 p.m. to add comment from Charlotte School of Law.