Thursday, April 26, 2012

Grads Could Not Pursue Action Based on Law School’s Post-Graduate Job Claims

This posting was written by William Zale, Editor of CCH Advertising Law Guide.

Nine graduates of New York Law School (NYLS), who allegedly chose to attend the school based on its promotional statements as to hiring of graduates, could not pursue claims for damages under the New York deceptive practices statute and common law, a New York state trial court has held. The graduates sought to recover damages equal to the difference between the allegedly inflated tuition (currently $47,800 per year) and the “true value” of an NYLS degree.

The allegedly misleading information was disseminated for the classes entering 2005-2010. According to the complaint, the NYLS data allegedly omitted facts that would have given prospective students a more accurate picture of NYLS's post-graduation employment prospects.

For example, the graduates alleged that NYLS consistently reported that approximately 90-92 percent of its graduates secured employment within nine months of graduation, but did not report the percentage of graduates employed in part-time or temporary positions.

NYLS's statements in its marketing materials were not misleading in a material way to consumers acting reasonably, the court determined. Documentary evidence in the complaint identified sources of information regarding law school graduates' realistic employment prospects—sources readily available for reasonable consumers of legal education to research and compare various law schools for the purpose of seriously considering whether to enroll.

The students could not have reasonably relied on NYLS's alleged misrepresentations, in the court’s view. They had ample information from additional sources and had the opportunity to discover the then-existing employment prospects at each stage of their legal education.

The graduates’ theory of damages was too speculative, according to the court. This was especially true since a supervening event, the 2008 Great Recession and its aftermath, had wreaked havoc throughout the legal job market and upset the plans of most recent law graduates wherever they attended law school.

The decision is Gomez-Jimenez v. New York Law School, CCH Advertising Law ¶64,652

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