When a group of people has suffered harm due to a business’s negligence, they can file a class action lawsuit to seek compensation and help keep it from happening again. But in Indiana, this is not possible when the negligent party is a university or college and the negligence has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. The state legislature passed a law in 2021 prohibiting class action litigation in those cases.
The pandemic profoundly affected all our lives, and college students were no exception. Campuses across Indiana shut down as classes shifted online. While this might have been the safest option amid a global pandemic, it also arguably deprived students of the education they were paying for. A lecture or lab session over Zoom cannot provide the same level of interaction and enrichment as in-person learning in a classroom or lecture hall with the professor and classmates.
Suing Ball State for lack of in-person education
That was much of the argument behind a breach of contract lawsuit that a Ball State University student filed against the school in the spring of 2020. The lawsuit contends that Ball State failed to live up to its promise to provide an in-person learning experience in exchange for payments like tuition and student fees and sought class-action status. The anti-class action law went into effect the following year.
The case remained stuck on the question of whether the law can be applied retroactively or if it unconstitutionally blocks the student body’s right to compensation. The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case on this issue.
Class action rights are crucial
The right to class action litigation is an important way of keeping powerful corporations and institutions accountable when they cause physical or financial harm. It should not be limited without a compelling reason.