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The Florida Supreme Court will not hear USF's appeal over COVID-19 fees

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Carl Lisciandrello
/
WUSF Public Media
The state Supreme Court on Thursday declined to take up an appeal by the University of South Florida in a dispute about fees collected from students for services that were not provided because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal refused to dismiss a potential class-action lawsuit accusing the university of breaching a contract with a student and improperly kept fees.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday declined to take up an appeal by the University of South Florida in a dispute about fees collected from students for services that were not provided because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

USF went to the Supreme Court in October after the 2nd District Court of Appeal 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.

USF contended, in part, that Moore did not identify an “express, written contract obligating petitioner (the university) to provide her with specific on-campus services.”

Also, the university cited sovereign immunity, which generally shields government agencies from liability.

But attorneys for Moore argued in a November brief that the appeals court correctly denied USF’s motion to dismiss the case because the student “adequately alleged breach of an existence of an express, written contract that may waive defendant’s sovereign immunity.”

As is common, the Supreme Court did not explain its reasons for declining to take up the case.

At least two other state appeals courts have ruled in favor of universities in similar disputes.

In November, a divided panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said an Alachua County circuit judge should have dismissed a lawsuit against the University of Florida over fees for services that were not provided. Also, the 3rd District Court of Appeal dismissed a similar case involving Miami Dade College.