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Lawsuit against Miami for COVID-era decision sent back to lower court

Miami University has been in court for more than two years after two former students sued the university for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, according to court documents.

Sarah Baumgartner, who graduated from Miami in May 2020, and Mackenzie Weiman, who graduated in May 2021, were enrolled as students in spring 2020. According to Franklin County Courts, they each filed suits against Miami, Weiman on Oct. 6, 2020, and Baumgartner on Nov. 6, 2020, before consolidating their cases.

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and Miami moving all classes online for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, the plaintiffs argued that they paid for a full semester of in-person classes and access to campus and instead got online classes without access to campus. 

Although Miami did refund students for housing, parking and other fees on a prorated basis, it did not refund any of the instructional fee or the surcharge for out-of-state students. 

Baumgartner and Weiman submitted a motion for certification to file a class action lawsuit, in which a group of people with similar grievances file a claim against a common defendant jointly. 

On Nov. 29, 2021, they submitted their revised definition of their class: “All undergraduate students enrolled in classes at the Oxford campus of Miami University during the Spring 2020 semester who paid the Instructional Fee and/or the Non-Resident Surcharge, and who were not given a full refund of those fees (pro-rated for the number of days remaining in the semester from when classes transitioned online to the last day of exams).”

Court documents show that on Dec. 13, 2021, the trial court found that the definition met the requirements for class certification, which would allow Weiman and Baumgartner to serve as representatives of that class. Miami appealed this decision.

Almost a year later, on Dec. 1, 2022, the Ohio Court of Appeals found that the trial court failed to conduct a rigorous analysis of the requirements for class certification and reversed the decision.

According to the Ohio Court of Claims, Weiman and Baumgartner have since renewed their motion for class certification, proposing a schedule for the motion and hoping the lower court can now conduct an appropriate analysis of the requirements. 

The details of the case and damages have yet to be discussed in court, as the class certification has been the main concern so far.


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