Florida State University seeks to scuttle COVID-19 lawsuit

Florida State University is asking a judge to reject a potential class-action lawsuit that seeks to recoup money for students who were forced to learn online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FSU attorneys last week filed a document in Leon County circuit court arguing that a judge should dismiss the case or issue a judgment in the university’s favor.

In part, the document pointed to sovereign immunity, which helps shield governmental entities from lawsuits.

Also, the FSU attorneys argued that no contract existed between named plaintiff Harrison Broer and the university.

“Simply stated, there is no enforceable written contract between plaintiff (Broer) and FSU,” the document said. “And because there is no express contract between the parties … plaintiff’s breach of contract claim is barred by sovereign immunity.”

Attorneys for Broer, an Auburndale resident who was a FSU law-school student in spring 2020, filed the lawsuit last month.

Like similar lawsuits filed in Florida and other states, it contends that students paid to learn in person but were short-changed last spring when they had to take classes remotely because of the pandemic.

The lawsuit alleges that Florida State has not offered “fair and/or appropriate refunds of fees charged for tuition and other services paid to cover the cost of certain on-campus services which are no longer available to students. To the extent refunds have been offered, the refunds have not been commensurate with the financial losses to the students and their families.”

The lawsuit came after the Legislature in April passed a bill (HB 1261) designed to shield colleges and universities from such cases.

The bill has not formally been sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis and would take effect July 1.