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A judge approves class-action status over USF's pandemic campus shutdown

Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media

It's one of several lawsuits seeking refunds of money that students paid for services that were not provided because of the pandemic.

A Hillsborough County circuit judge has certified a class action in a lawsuit about whether the University of South Florida should return fees to students because of a campus shutdown early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judge Darren Farfante issued an order Monday approving a request by named plaintiff ValerieMarie Moore to make the case a class action that would apply to students enrolled at USF in 2020 and the spring semester of 2021.

The lawsuit is one of numerous cases in Florida and across the country seeking refunds of money that students paid for services that were not provided because of the pandemic.

The Florida Supreme Court last month said it will take up a case that alleges the University of Florida breached a contract with a student and should return fees.

The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the University of Florida, leading to the case going to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the 2nd District Court of Appeal last year refused a request by the University of South Florida to dismiss Moore’s case.

The Supreme Court on Jan. 5 declined to take up an appeal by USF.

Farfante approved class certification despite objections from the university.

“The court concludes that the proposed class is certifiable as a damages class … because common issues concerning USF’s uniform course of conduct, which resulted in all students being treated the exact same way and suffering the same type of readily quantifiable damages, predominate over individual questions about the amounts of fees paid by individual students,” Monday’s order said. “A damages class is also the superior method to adjudicate this controversy because it allows the students, who all have small claims for damages, the ability to prosecute their claims in a manageable and effective manner.”

Adam Moskowitz, an attorney who will represent the class, issued a statement Tuesday that said hundreds of millions of dollars “were collected from students across the country, for specific and itemized services (like health center, athletics and transportation fees) that were admittedly never provided."

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