Willkie Obtains Dismissal of Putative Class Action Brought Against Northwestern University by Current and Former Students

September 16, 2021

Suit alleged breach of contract and unjust enrichment related to transition to remote learning as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.

Willkie successfully obtained dismissal of a putative class action brought against Northwestern University by a group of current and former students. The lawsuit, brought in the Northern District of Illinois, alleged that following Northwestern’s shut down of in-person instruction due to the 2020 global pandemic, the university breached express and implied contracts with students and was unjustly enriched by collecting tuition.

This case, which consolidates three different actions filed by current and former Northwestern undergraduate and graduate students, is part of a wave of litigation in which students and parents have filed more than 300 lawsuits against colleges and universities around the country, demanding pro-rated refunds of tuition and fees for transitions to remote learning in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020.

On September 15, Judge Harry D. Leinenweber granted Northwestern’s motion to dismiss, finding the named plaintiffs failed to state a claim for breach of contract or unjust enrichment, and dismissed their complaint without prejudice.

The Willkie litigation team representing Northwestern was led by Craig C. Martin, Chair – Midwest and partner, as well as partner Brienne M. Letourneau and associate Chloe Holt. All are based in the firm’s Chicago office.