Professors sue Florida Coastal School of Law over ‘breach of contract’

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two law professors are suing Florida Coastal School of Law in a complaint that accuses the for-profit school’s owners of putting their own interests ahead of the school’s.

The four-count lawsuit was filed July 17 in Duval County by the law firm of Morgan & Morgan on behalf of law professors Benjamin Priester and Jennifer Reiber. The professors, who have taught at the school for over a decade each, are seeking more than $30,000 in damages and a jury trial.

Among other things, the suit accuses Florida Coastal School of Law and its ownership of breach of contract by unilaterally cutting employees’ agreed upon salaries to offset budget shortfalls. It says the professors, who would not have kept working for the school if their pay wasn’t misrepresented, are owed unpaid wages.

DOCUMENTS: View a PDF copy of the lawsuit

Named in the complaint is Richard Inatome, chief executive officer for InfiLaw, the for-profit consortium that purchased Florida Coastal in 2004. The complaint states Inatome mentioned multiple times that he deserves to “get his money back” and accuses him of overseeing budget cuts with minimal oversight. It says the school has consistently “operated without an annual shareholder meeting” and with vacancies on its board of directors.

“Inatome is personally liable for the debts and liabilities of FCSL because he has continuously, repeatedly, and pervasively failed to comply with corporate formalities or to respect the corporate form. Accordingly, Defendant FCSL is Defendant Richard Inatome’s ‘alter ego’ and Defendant FCSL functions as a ‘mere instrumentality’ of Defendant Richard Inatome,” the complaint states.

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A search of Duval County court records shows that three of the seven defendants, Sterling Capital Partners, InfiLaw Corporation and InfiLaw Holding, filed motions Wednesday seeking more time to respond.

Florida Coastal School of Law President and Dean Peter Goplerud provided the following statement to News4Jax in response to questions about the litigation:

“We are aware that claims have been made. We’ll review the claims and respond as appropriate. We’re focused at this time on ensuring a high quality law school education and environment for our students and staff. We’re appreciative of the support of our law school community as we navigate the unusual environment we’re facing, including the recent issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.”