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Columbia University to pay $12.5 mln to settle COVID-19 refund claims

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NEW YORK, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Columbia University agreed to pay $12.5 million to settle a lawsuit by college students who claimed it failed to refund charges when it moved lessons on-line within the spring 2020 semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A preliminary settlement of the proposed class motion was filed on Tuesday night time, and requires approval by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan.

Columbia will refund $8.56 million in charges for scholar actions, well being providers and using its gyms, libraries and different amenities, and pay almost $4 million to keep away from the dangers of additional litigation.

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The Ivy League faculty had beforehand given a partial payment refund. Roy Willey, a lawyer for the scholars, stated the $8.56 million was 100% of what the college nonetheless owed. Columbia denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

At least 261 lawsuits have been filed towards U.S. faculties and universities over their alleged failure to refund tuition and costs when the pandemic pressured them into distant studying, in accordance to the regulation agency Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

Many of those lawsuits have been dismissed, together with a case towards Harvard University in June, as a result of the faculties had not contractually promised in-person instruction and entry to on-campus amenities.

In February, Furman dismissed the Columbia college students’ tuition refund claims, deferring to the varsity’s decisionmaking about sustaining its tutorial requirements whereas selling the general public well being, however allow them to search payment refunds.

“The pandemic has imposed serious challenges on sustaining the teaching, research, patient care and public service at the core of Columbia’s mission,” Columbia stated in a press release on Wednesday concerning the settlement. “Throughout this period, we have been committed to meeting the needs of our students.”

Lawyers for the scholars could search up to one-third of the settlement fund for authorized charges.

The case is In re Columbia University Tuition Refund Action, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 20-03208.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

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