Polk State College among public institutions sued for COVID-19 related restrictions

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A lawyer representing a Polk State College student says a new law protecting educational institutions against COVID-19-related litigation is unconstitutional.

“It’s an infringement on the power of the courts to exercise its authority both in terms of jurisdiction and procedure,” said John Yanchunis, who is representing Shantrell Fisher in a lawsuit against Polk State College.

Students paid hundreds of dollars in fees in 2020 for services, including labs, computer rooms and parking spaces, that were unavailable during the pandemic, Yanchunis argues.

“In-service programs, which they did not receive and were not provided because they were attending school virtually,” said Yanchunis, who leads Morgan & Morgan’s class action department.

“Because this is an open case, we do not have a comment at this time,” said Polk State College spokesperson Madison Fantozzi.

The class-action lawsuit is one of more than a dozen lawsuits filed against public colleges and universities in Florida.

“We wondered if we would get a case, we waited, we watched our colleagues go through it. The state university system has been sued. We almost made it. We got served recently, I think, in the month of June,” said Carolyn Egan, general counsel for Florida State University.

Egan said in a June board of trustees meeting that the university filed a motion to dismiss and scheduled the hearing for August, after a key piece of legislation would go into effect.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R – Florida) signed a bill into law in late June that protects educational institutions from class-action lawsuits involving COVID-19 related actions.

“The class action device is the ability of a litigate to file a class action in a Florida state court. No one can abridge that right, no one can affect that right but the Supreme Court,” said Yanchunis.

Yanchunis expects rulings on the lawsuit to come down by the end of the year.

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