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Borden v. Antonelli College

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

March 29, 2018

ANNIE BORDEN, et al., Plaintiffs,
ANTONELLI COLLEGE, et al., Defendants.


          Timothy S. Black United States District Judge

         This civil case is before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the claims of Plaintiff Kachena Richardson (Doc. 49) and the parties' responsive memoranda (Docs. 55, 60).[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Introduction.

         Plaintiffs Annie Borden and Kachena Richardson commenced this lawsuit, which alleges that Defendants engaged in deceptive and misleading marketing and advertising practices. Plaintiffs are former students in Antonelli's Practical Nursing Program (“PNP”). Plaintiffs' claims, which are asserted on behalf of themselves and a putative class, are premised on their contentions that Defendants misrepresented facts about the PNP, including its quality and approval from the Ohio Board of Nursing (“OBN”), and failed to provide adequate instruction.

         Defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment on the claims of Ms. Richardson and Ms. Borden. The current motion pertains to Ms. Richardson's claims. For background purposes, the facts alleged in the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 30) relevant to Ms. Richardson's claims are as follows:

         Ms. Richardson contacted Antonelli College in response to advertisements of its PNP. (Doc. 30 at ¶ 58). From the outset, Ms. Richardson made clear to Antonelli recruiters and administrators that her goal was to achieve a degree as a registered nurse, and a practical nursing diploma was only the first step. Recruiters and administrators from Antonelli assured Ms. Richardson that the PNP was “fully accredited” and that its credits were fully transferable to schools offering a registered nursing degree (“RN”) through reciprocity agreements. (Id. at ¶¶ 59, 60). Ms. Richardson claims these representations were not true.[2]

         Ms. Richardson entered the PNP in September, 2013, as a member of the program's inaugural class. (Doc. 30 at ¶ 58). Ms. Richardson excelled in the PNP, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. However, it became apparent that Antonelli's instruction was deficient. (Id. at ¶ 61). For example, an instructor once walked out during a scheduled class, informing students that Antonelli was not paying her. (Id.)

         When Ms. Richardson found out that Antonelli was not “fully” accredited by the OBN, she met with Ms. Barnette, the administrator of the PNP, and Edward Nito, the president of Antonelli through April 2015, to ask about Antonelli's status. (Doc. 30 at ¶ 63). President Nito informed Ms. Richardson that Antonelli's full accreditation depended entirely on her class of five maintaining a 100% graduation rate and 100% NCLEX-PN passage rate.[3] (Id.) When Ms. Barnette expressed concern that Antonelli was not meeting the minimal requirements set forth by the OBN, Mr. Nito replied: “We'll get this done.” (Id.)

         Ms. Richardson and her four classmates graduated in August 2014 and passed the NCLEX-PN. (Id. at ¶ 64). Despite their efforts, the OBN imposed a Consent Agreement on the PNP because of Antonelli's deficiencies. (Id.)

         Ms. Richardson and her classmates, all of whom wanted to continue for an RN degree, soon found out that Antonelli's assurances that Antonelli credits would be transferable to RN programs were false. (Doc. 30 at ¶ 65). Ms. Richardson applied to the University of Cincinnati, NKU, Cincinnati State, Good Samaritan Hospital's School of Nursing, Christ Hospital's School of Nursing, Mount St. Joseph College, and Claremont College. (Id.) None would accept any of her Antonelli credits. (Id.) Only other for-profit colleges showed any willingness to accept Antonelli's credits-and then only a minimal number of credits, despite her outstanding grades. (Id.)

         Ms. Richardson is currently enrolled at Cincinnati State taking remedial courses to prepare to enter its LPN program and then continue in its RN program. (Doc. 30 at ¶ 66). She is forced to repeat all of her Antonelli LPN courses, despite her 4.0 average, her diploma, and passage of the NCLEX-PN. (Id.) Antonelli recruiters continue to contact Ms. Richardson asking her to refer prospective students to Antonelli to increase their commissions and meet quotas. (Id.)

         The Complaint alleges that, due to Defendants' conduct, acts, and omissions, Ms. Borden, Ms. Richardson, and putative class members have suffered damages including, but not limited to: (1) loss of the expected degree qualifying them to sit for the NCLEX-PN; (2) loss of one year or more of time and dedication to the PNP; (3) loss of tuition, fees, interest on loans, and supplemental expenses to attend the PNP; (4) loss of costs to commute, park, and/or childcare; (5) loss of future earnings; and (6) loss of earnings due to their participation in the PNP. (Doc. 30 at ¶ 67).

         The Complaint asserts claims for violation of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“ODTPA”) (Count One), breach of contract (Count Two), fraud (Count Three), constructive fraud (Count Four), intentional misrepresentation (Count Five), negligent misrepresentation (Count Six), promissory estoppel (Count Seven) and unjust enrichment (Count Eight).

         B. Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         On January 24, 2017, the Court put on an Order granting Defendants' motion for partial judgment on the pleadings pertaining to Ms. Richardson's claims. (Doc. 38). Specifically, the Court held that Ms. Richardson could not maintain any claim premised on her allegation that Defendants orally misrepresented the transferability of Antonelli credits because those alleged oral misrepresentations were expressly contradicted by the terms of an enrollment agreement (“Enrollment Agreement”) signed by Ms. Richardson. (Id. at 3-4). The Enrollment Agreement states, in relevant part: “Antonelli College does not guarantee transferability of its credits to other institutions of higher education.” (Id. at 3). On this basis, the Court entered judgment in favor of Defendants on Ms. Richardson's claims for fraud (Count Three), constructive fraud (Count Four), intentional misrepresentation (Count Five), negligent misrepresentation (Count Six), and promissory estoppel (Count Seven).

         Accordingly, at this juncture, Ms. Richardson's remaining claims are for violation of the ODTPA (Count One), breach of contract (Count Two), and unjust enrichment (Count Eight).

         C. Defendants' statement of undisputed facts.

         Pursuant to this Court's Standing Order Governing Civil Motions for Summary Judgment, Defendants presented the following undisputed facts:

         Ms. Richardson graduated from the PNP, sat for the NCLEX-PN exam, passed the NCLEX-PN exam, and obtained employment as a licensed practical nurse. (Doc. 49-1 at ¶ 6; Doc. 55-1 at ¶ 6).

         Defendant Mary Ann Davis had no direct responsibility or oversight with respect to the PNP, nor did she have any involvement with Ms. Richardson prior to the filing of this lawsuit. (Doc. 49-1 at ¶ 7).[4]

         Defendant Corey Bjarnson is the Dean of Students at Antonelli's Cincinnati campus. (Doc. 49-1 at ¶ 9; Doc. 55-1 at ¶ 9).


         A motion for summary judgment should be granted if the evidence submitted to the court demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The moving party has the burden of showing the absence of genuine disputes over facts which, under the substantive law governing the issue, might affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. All facts and inferences must be construed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         A party opposing a motion for summary judgment “may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a ...

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