Source: Bloomberg Law
The Arizona Board of Regents won the first dismissal of hundreds of lawsuits filed across the country against universities by students seeking the cost of room, board and other fees after campus closure in the wake of COVID-19.
Several observers predicted that the suits would be difficult to win, particularly against public institutions that will claim sovereign immunity — in this case, the court never reached the sovereign immunity issue, Bloomberg Law reported.
Barry Burgdorf, Corporate counsel at Pillsbury, said many other states have pre-filing notice requirements when plaintiffs are pursuing the state for monetary damages, so plaintiffs in other states pursuing similar claims may face the same hurdle.
The notice provision is intended to allow the state an opportunity to determine whether the sovereign immunity applies. But here, the court never reached the issue of sovereign immunity, he said.
Whether public universities in other states can assert immunity is more like shades of gray than a simple binary yes or no question, Bloomberg Law reported.
“You have 50 varieties of sovereign immunity,” Burgdorf said. “Some states like Texas have strong sovereign immunity, while others are much weaker.”
"When the state is acting in its governmental capacity sovereign immunity applies, but it may not when acting in a proprietary fashion,” he said. “Universities can be both, so there can be a wide variety of results on sovereign immunity.”