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Appeals court restores tuition and fees refund suits against AU, GWU

Supreme Court Justice Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) March 2, 2022. Judge Jackson recused herself in a Tuesday U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit ruling that revived tuition refund lawsuits against American University and George Washington University.&nbsp; Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/e90d42711c7edc55d0e91de123d05283/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Supreme Court Justice Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson meets with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) March 2, 2022. Judge Jackson recused herself in a Tuesday U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit ruling that revived tuition refund lawsuits against American University and George Washington University.  Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

March 9 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court has revived two lawsuits against American University and George Washington University seeking tuition and fees refunds after the schools stopped in-person learning during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-0 Tuesday reversing a district court ruling dismissing implied-in-fact contract claims with respect to tuition and some of the fees at issue.

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Supreme Court Justice nominee Katanji Brown Jackson recused herself from the ruling. Judge Jackson was one of three judges on the appeals court who heard arguments in the cases.

The decision held that, "Plaintiffs plausibly allege that the Universities breached implied-in-fact contracts to provide in-person instruction in exchange for tuition for on campus degree programs."

The appeals court said it's for the district courts to resolve "whether the parties contracted for in-person education as alleged."

"Plaintiffs' factual allegations, combined with the reasonable inferences drawn from them, suffice to support their claims that the Universities promised to provide in-person instruction in exchange for Plaintiffs' tuition payments," the ruling said.

But the appeals court said even if the district courts conclude that the universities being sued did make those in-person education promises, the universities could still have strong arguments against the lawsuits.

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"The Universities may still have strong arguments that the pandemic and resulting government issued shutdown orders discharged their duties to perform," the appeals court ruling said.

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