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Indiana Supreme Court rejects class-action lawsuits for COVID tuition refunds

Ball State University entrance sign. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Class-action lawsuits seeking refunds from colleges and universities for online classes during COVID violate Indiana law, the state’s highest court ruled Tuesday.

The unanimous ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court means students looking for refunds must file individual lawsuits for any chance of reimbursement.

Keller Mellowitz was a student at Ball State University in the spring of 2020 when the school moved classes online at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mellowitz sued after the university declined to refund part of the tuition and fees charged for that semester.

The Indiana General Assembly passed a law in 2021 that retroactively prohibited class-action suits against colleges and universities for their actions during the pandemic.

The courts five justices ruled the 2021 law does not violate the Indiana Constitution’s separation of powers.

The law “reflects an attempt to minimize postsecondary educational institutions’ litigation exposure for rapid, difficult decisions they had to make when confronting a historic disaster and complying with government directives,” Justice Derek Molter wrote for the court.

Tuesday’s decision overturns an Indiana Court of Appeals decision in October 2022 that allowed the class-action lawsuit to move forward.