Emerson reaches settlement agreement in Spring 2020 lawsuit

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Photo: Alec Klusza

People walking through the intersection of Boylston and Tremont street.

By Olivia LeDuc, Staff Writer

Emerson settled a class-action lawsuit regarding its decision to move classes online during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The college agreed to pay $2,060,000 in compensation to students, according to public court documents. 

The lawsuit, filed by former student Ryan Porter ’20, claims it was a breach of contract for the college to charge full tuition in the spring semester of 2020 when it switched to remote learning and services on March 10, 2020. 

All students enrolled at Emerson who paid tuition and fees as of March 13, 2020, are listed as eligible beneficiaries to collect $50 from the settlement. Students can opt out or send an objection letter to the court about the settlement. 

Some students, who did not disclose their names, felt the lawsuit brushed aside the needs of disabled students by arguing an in-person education is more valuable than a disabled student’s life. 

Checks will automatically be sent to eligible persons following the court’s final approval of the settlement on Sept. 27.

Emerson defended its decision to transition from in-person to remote learning to “preserve the health and safety” of the community but believes it was necessary to settle the case to evade further litigation.

“We believe Emerson College acted properly and deny all wrongdoing in the lawsuit, but believe it was prudent to settle this case to avoid protracted and expensive litigation, and to allow Emerson to continue to focus on its core mission,” Emerson Today Staff wrote in a statement. 

Court documents show Porter sued the college for the quality of education received after Emerson allegedly failed to provide a sufficient alternative to in-person learning.

According to court documents, the lawsuit said Porter sought for himself and on behalf of “similarly situated individuals” reimbursement on tuition for the respective time Emerson failed to provide services tuition intended to cover. 

Porter will receive $7,500 for efforts in reaching the settlement. All other funds will compensate the attorneys involved in the case and pay for notice and administration costs.