Hagens Berman: Duke Student Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against University Seeking Repayment for Tuition and other Costs Lost During COVID-19

Lawsuit highlights Duke’s touted on-campus experience as one of many amenities students paid for, but have been denied amid novel coronavirus outbreak and campus closure

RALEIGH, N.C.--()--An anonymous Duke University student has filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to represent his fellow Duke students to obtain repayment of tuition, room and board and other expenses in light of the outbreak of COVID-19, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.

The latest lawsuit follows similar actions from Hagens Berman against Boston University, Brown University, George Washington University and Vanderbilt, in which students and parents sued their universities. The class-action lawsuit against Duke has been brought by a fulltime Duke student and Minnesota resident, referred to in the complaint anonymously as John Doe. The case was filed May 8, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina and accuses the university of breach of contract, unjust enrichment and conversion.

If you are paying for college tuition, and/or room and board at a college or university closed due to COVID-19, find out more about the lawsuit and your rights. The law firm is investigating all higher education institutions in the U.S.

According to attorneys at the firm, Duke University students, like millions of college students across the country, have been forced to endure closed residence halls, cancelled events, online learning in place of in-class courses, and lack of access to labs, cafeterias and often their own belongings as dormitories shutdown in a rush response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Duke prides itself on its ‘exceptional academics,’ and ‘community of support,’ and there’s a reason hopeful students choose Duke over higher education via remote learning,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for students in the class action.

“While many schools nationwide offer and highlight remote learning capabilities as a primary component of their efforts to deliver educational value (see, e.g., Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University, University of Phoenix-Arizona), Defendant is not such a school,” the suit states. “Furthermore, touting its campus, Duke notes that its ‘campus of 8,600+ acres gives students space to roam—both physically and intellectually. But it isn’t just the setting that makes Duke unlike any other university. It’s the feeling—the kinetic energy of connections forged, creativity sparked, and ideas born.’”

“Students at Duke suffered an abrupt and unprecedented upheaval after their 2020 spring break, evicted from the dorms and switching entirely to remote learning,” Berman added. “No more library access, hands-on lab experiences, gym access or in-person access to professors, all of which our client and many other Duke students paid for and expected to receive.”

The suit states that students, parents and guardians who paid Duke’s tuition and fees for the spring 2020 semester, for which Duke charges $27,940 for undergraduate tuition, deserve payback for their disrupted studies, living situations and other losses.

Attorneys say plaintiff paid Duke for opportunities and services that he will not receive, including on-campus education, facilities, services and activities.

“In matriculating at Duke University, Plaintiff, like other students, chose to enroll for in-person classes to obtain a hands-on educational experience, avail himself of top academic instruction, and directly interact with faculty and classmates to increase his knowledge and understanding of the subject material,” the complaint states.

Other Affected Universities

Hagens Berman is investigating the rights of those who are currently paying for room and board, and/or tuition at colleges and universities that have been forced to close due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This may include parents, guardians or college students who are paying for their own costs of college.

Despite orders from colleges and universities sending home students and closing campuses, these institutions of higher learning continue to charge for tuition and room and board. Collectively, these institutions are continuing to receive millions from students despite their inability to continue school as normal, or occupy campus buildings and dorms.

Find out more about the class-action lawsuit against colleges and universities for tuition, room and board and other costs incurred during the outbreak of COVID-19.

About Hagens Berman

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.


Ashley Klann

Release Summary

An anonymous Duke University student has filed a class-action lawsuit seeking tuition repayment amid COVID-19 closures, according to Hagens Berman.


Ashley Klann