USF asks Supreme Court to hear Florida case about college fees during COVID-19 shutdown

Arguing that the case is of “great public importance,” the University of South Florida on Monday urged the state Supreme Court to take up a dispute about fees collected from students for services that were not provided because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorneys filed an initial brief at the Supreme Court after the 2nd District Court of Appeal this year refused to dismiss a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that the university breached a contract with student ValerieMarie Moore and improperly kept fees. Similar lawsuits have been filed against colleges and universities in Florida and across the country after campuses were shut down in 2020.

Monday’s brief contends that Moore did not identify an “express, written contract obligating petitioner (the university) to provide her with specific on-campus services.” It also cited a ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal that dismissed a similar case involving Miami Dade College.

“This is not the only case arising from a Florida public university’s alleged failure to provide on-campus services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will not be the last,” USF attorneys wrote. “Moreover, the question whether Florida public colleges are entitled to the protection of sovereign immunity in breach-of-contract actions is one of great public importance because the issue has been — and undoubtedly will continue to be — a central issue in numerous cases brought against public colleges and universities in Florida. Sovereign immunity bars a breach of contract claim against the petitioner to the extent there is not an express, written contract obligating it to provide appellee (Moore) with the services to which she claims entitlement.”

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