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Hagens Berman: King County Judge Certifies Class of UW Students in Lawsuit Seeking Refunds for Pandemic Closure

Law firms leading the class action say court’s ruling on behalf of over 50,000 UW students means student tuition and fee-payers are one step closer to reimbursement

Yesterday, a King County judge overseeing a class-action lawsuit against the University of Washington certified a class of student tuition and fee-payers accusing UW of unlawfully retaining those payments, amounting to millions of dollars, during the COVID-19 campus closures and provision of limited, distance-only online learning, according to attorneys at Seattle law firm Hagens Berman.

The local law firm was also named to a leadership position with co-counsel at Lynch Carpenter LLP in the case, and with class certification, more information about the lawsuit will be issued to students in the near future.

“Many at our Seattle-based law firm are proud to call UW their alma mater but have not been proud of how the university chose to handle the COVID-19 campus closure and switch to remote learning,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman. “Students were left footing the bill for integral parts of campus life that the university was completely unable to provide, yet it chose to keep those payments.”

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 16, 2020, in the Superior Court of the State of Washington, King County against UW, demanding repayment for tuition and other mandatory fees citing the university’s response to COVID-19 campus closure and online learning. The class action accuses UW of breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

The complaint reads, “Despite sending students home, transitioning to online instruction, and closing its campuses, University of Washington continued to charge for tuition and/or fees as if nothing changed, continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students.”

“With the University of Washington’s effective campus closure, cancellation of campus events, suspension of many campus services and programs, and transition to exclusively online instruction starting in the Winter Quarter 2020 and continuing in the Spring Quarter 2020 and beyond…Plaintiff lost access to the on-campus instruction, opportunities, facilities, and services for which Plaintiff had bargained for by selecting—and paying tuition and fees for—in-person courses and experiences,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit highlights that the plaintiff enrolled to obtain in-person, on-campus instruction including the ability to attend professors’ office hours and access campus amenities and faculty mentorship.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision both to certify the class and designate our firm and our co-counsel as lead counsel in the case,” Berman added. “Clearing this hurdle puts the class one step closer to hopeful reimbursement for fees and tuition from UW.”

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 is a global plaintiffs’ rights complex litigation law firm with a tenacious drive for achieving real results for those harmed by corporate negligence and fraud. Since its founding in 1993, the firm’s determination has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.


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