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Adams v. Antonelli College

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

March 30, 2018

TENESHA ADAMS, Individually and on behalf of those Similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
ANTONELLI COLLEGE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 36) AND TERMINATING THIS CASE IN THIS COURT

          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 Tenesha Adams (Doc. 36) and the Counterclaim filed by Antonelli (Doc. 34) as well as the parties' responsive memoranda (Docs. 40, 41).[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Introduction.

         Ms. Adams commenced this lawsuit, which alleges that Defendants engaged in deceptive and misleading marketing and advertising practices. Ms. Adams is a former student in Antonelli's Practical Nursing Program (“PNP”). Ms. Adams's claims, which are asserted on behalf of herself and a putative class, are premised on her contention 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.

         On these bases, the Complaint asserts claims for violation of the Ohio Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“ODTPA”), breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and promissory estoppel.

         In response, Antonelli filed a Counterclaim which alleges that Ms. Adams is liable for unpaid tuition and costs and asserts claims for breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

         B. The PNP.

         In September, 2013, Antonelli opened the PNP. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 23; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 23). The PNP had previously been granted “conditional approval” by the OBN on November 15, 2012. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 24; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 24).

         In November, 2014, the OBN entered into a consent agreement (“Consent Agreement”) with Antonelli that extended the conditional approval status of the PNP until November, 2015. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 25; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 25). During these “conditional approval” phases, Antonelli was allowed to enroll and graduate students and its graduates were eligible to sit for the NCLEX-PN exam and to become licensed practical nurses in the State of Ohio. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 26; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 26).

         C. Ms. Adams enrolls in the PNP.

         Ms. Adams enrolled in the PNP in or around November, 2014. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 1; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 1). Ms. Adams signed certain documents and disclosures pertaining to her enrollment that are of consequence to this litigation. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 2; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 2).

         Ms. Adams executed an enrollment agreement (“Enrollment Agreement”) in which she agreed to pay tuition and fees in exchange for educational services provided by Antonelli. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 10; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 10; Doc. 36-3).

         Ms. Adams executed a Policies and Procedures disclosure whereby she certified that she had received a copy of the current Antonelli Catalog (“College Catalog”). (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 28; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 28; Doc. 36-13). The College Catalog expressly stated that the PNP was “conditionally approved” by the OBN:

Antonelli College Practical Nursing Program was granted Conditional Approval by the Ohio Board of Nursing. Conditional Approval is the initial approval status granted to a new nursing education program that meets and maintains the requirements of Chapter 4723-5, Ohio Administrative Code, and is necessary for the implementation of the program. Graduates of the Practical Nursing Program are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-PN and apply for licensure as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in the State of Ohio.

(Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 29; Doc. 36-12 at 6).[2]

         Ms. Adams signed a Financial Aid Application in which she certified to Antonelli that she would “be responsible for a balance due in cash that is not paid by federal, state or agency assistance.” (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 11; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 11; Doc. 36-8 at 2).

         To pay for her tuition, Ms. Adams received Federal Student Aid, including Pell Grants, Subsidized Loans and Unsubsidized Loans, as well as cash payments. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 12; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 12).

         According to her Student Statement, Ms. Adams has a balance due for unpaid tuition that was not covered by grants, loans, or cash payments to Antonelli of $1, 832.00. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 14; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 14; Doc. 36-9).

         Ms. Adams also participated in the Antonelli College Loan Program (“ACLP”). (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 13).[3] Under the ACLP, Ms. Adams entered into two Master Promissory Notes (“MPNs”) with Antonelli on November 7, 2014, and August 3, 2015, respectively. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 15; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 15; Doc. 36-10). Under the MPNs, Ms. Adams agreed to repay the loan amounts disbursed thereunder, plus interest and other charges and fees due under the MPNs. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 16; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 16; Doc. 36-10). In total, $718 was disbursed under the MPNs. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 17; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 17).

         Plaintiff agreed to repay the principal and interest on the ACLP loans to Antonelli beginning 180 days after her separation from the college. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 18; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 18; Doc. 36-10). Ms. Adams' last day of attendance at Antonelli was October 22, 2015. (Doc.36-1 at ¶ 19; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 19). Accordingly, her repayments came due on April 19, 2016. (Doc. 36 at ¶ 20; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 20). Under the terms of the MPNs, Antonelli, at its option, can declare loans in default and demand immediate payment of the entire balance, including principal, interest, and collection costs if scheduled payments are not made when due. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 21; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 21; Doc. 36-10). In total, Ms. Adams owes Antonelli $718 plus interest for her unpaid ACLP balance and $1, 832 for unpaid tuition. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 22).[4]

         D. Ms. Adams departs the PNP after failing a course.

         Ms. Adams began classes at the PNP in January, 2015. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 3; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 3).

         Ms. Adams's last day in the PNP was October 22, 2015. (Doc. 36-4). On October 23, 2015, Ms. Adams was informed that she failed a course (Nursing II). (Adams Dep. at 36:13-20).[5] When Defendants informed Ms. Adams she would have to re-take the course, she chose not to re-enroll. (Id. at 40:20-42:17).

         Following her departure from the PNP, Ms. Barnette filed a complaint with the OBN. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 5; Doc. 36-5). Antonelli was given the opportunity to respond and provide supporting documentation. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 6; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 6; Doc. 36-6). On January 15, 2016, the OBN advised Antonelli that, based on its review of the materials submitted, “the Rules of 4723-5, OAC, were met.” (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 7; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 7; Doc. 36-7).[6]

         In March, 2016, Ms. Adams filed a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's Office. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 8; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 8). Besides an initial communication, Ms. Adams has never heard anything further from the Attorney General's Office. (Doc. 36-1 at ¶ 9; Doc. 40-1 at ¶ 9).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Ms. Adams does not have standing to assert the ODTA claim.

         Count One of the Complaint alleges that Defendants violated the ODTPA by making deceptive, false and misleading statements concerning the PNP. (Doc. 2 at ¶¶ 52-60). Count One alleges that Defendants misrepresented the PNP and failed to advise enrollees that it had entered into the Consent Agreement and that the State of Ohio could revoke its approval for the PNP if certain deficiencies were not corrected. (Id.)

         Defendants argue Ms. Adams does not have standing to pursue this claim because she is an individual consumer and has not suffered a commercial injury. (Doc. 40 at 8-10). The Court agrees.

         Under the ODTPA, a person engages in an unlawful “deceptive trade practice” when, in the course of the person's business, vocation, or occupation, he or she, inter alia:

(7) represents that goods or services have sponsorship, approval, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits, or quantities that they do not have, or that a person has a sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation, or connection that the person does not have;
(9) represents that goods or services are of a particular standard, quality, or grade, or that the goods are of a particular style ...

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