Indiana Court of Appeals revives class action lawsuit against Ball State

INDIANAPOLIS — With COVID spreading rapidly and vaccines in the spring of 2020 in the development phase, Ball State University has made the same decision that many schools have made. They moved to distant classes.

The student Keller Mellowitz had raised an objection. He had paid student fees. He had paid the tuition for face-to-face classes. Now he didn’t get either and the university didn’t offer a refund.

So Mellowitz sued.

His attorneys filed a class action lawsuit in Marion County Superior Court, alleging that Ball State’s refusal to compensate students constituted a breach of contract and that damages should be awarded. The lawsuit estimated that up to 20,000 Ball State students were owed some type of payment.

As things slowed in the court system slowed by the pandemic, the state government attempted to derail the class action lawsuit.

In April 2021, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed House Enrolled Act 1002. Part of this new law retrospectively banned class action lawsuits against an “affected entity,” which included “state educational institutions.”

With the lawsuit legally shelved, Mellowitz’s attorneys would eventually appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Earlier this month, three appeals court judges agreed that the portion of the new law providing public schools with class action protections was a “nullity,” meaning void. The lawsuit came because the law conflicted with long-established court rules.

Judge Terry Crone, who wrote the decision, ordered the class action to proceed.

Neither Mellowitz nor his attorneys were immediately available for comment. A Ball State spokesman declined to discuss the case, saying it is a “legal battle.”

It’s unknown how much money Ball State saved for itself by not issuing tuition and fee refunds, but the school received a large portion of the federal pandemic aid.

In total, the university received $77,500,000. After Ball State shared $27,700,000 in emergency grants with students, nearly $50,000,000 remained for Ball State to use at its discretion. Colleges and universities often used part of these funds to reimburse their students for tuition, room and board plans.

Below is the original filing of the class action lawsuit and the decision of the Indiana Court of Appeals: Indiana Court of Appeals revives class action lawsuit against Ball State

Dais Johnston

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