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Cleveland State University v. Simpson

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 6, 2019

CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THOMAS SIMPSON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-17-880240

          Keith D. Weiner & Associates Co., L.P.A, Paul K. Rode, Michael S. Berkowitz, and Stacie Hackel Snow, for appellee.

          Frantz Ward, L.L.P., Patrick F. Haggerty, and Justin W. Younker, for appellant.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          KATHLEEN ANN KEOUGH, J.

         {¶ 1} This appeal is before the court on the accelerated docket pursuant to App.R. 11.1 and Loc.App.R. 11.1. The purpose of an accelerated appeal is to allow this court to render a brief and conclusory opinion. State v. Priest, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 100614, 2014-Ohio-1735, ¶ 1.

         {¶ 2} Defendant-appellant, Thomas Simpson ("Simpson"), appeals from the trial court's judgment that granted the motion for summary judgment of plaintiff-appellee, Cleveland State University ("CSU"), and denied Simpson's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand with instructions that the trial court enter judgment in favor of Simpson.

         I. Background

         {¶ 3} Simpson was a full-time student at CSU during spring semester 2010. He received F's in three classes, and withdrew from a fourth class.

         {¶ 4} Simpson received federal subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans and a federal Pell grant to pay for his courses, as authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq. CSU's policy regarding returning "unearned" Title IV federal financial aid was set forth in a document published by its Financial Aid Office entitled "Return of Title IV Funds Policy (RTIV) Official/Unofficial Withdrawals" ("RTIV Policy" or "Policy"). The Policy stated:

If you are receiving federal financial aid, and completely withdraw (all W grades) or receive all non-passing grades (F, I, W, X, UD, or UF) during a semester, CSU will return all "unearned" Title IV aid under federal mandate.
In order to receive 100% of federal financial aid you must receive at least one passing grade, and/or attend 60% of one academic course throughout the semester. If you failed to earn a passing grade, but were in attendance at an academically-related activity through 60% of the period, then the Financial Aid Office will verify your last date of attendance with your course instructors(s).

         {¶ 5} In July 2010, having determined that Simpson had unofficially withdrawn from the university, CSU returned his unearned financial aid funds to its federally backed lender. In May 2017, seven years after Simpson's unofficial withdrawal from the university, CSU filed a complaint for unjust enrichment against Simpson seeking monies allegedly due from him as a result of his returned financial aid. Simpson, pro se, answered CSU's complaint, denying that he owed CSU any money.

         {¶ 6} CSU then filed a motion for summary judgment in which it asserted that although Simpson had withdrawn from one class during the spring 2010 semester, he had received failing grades in the other three classes, thereby rendering him ineligible to retain his full financial aid awards and necessitating the return by CSU of a portion of those funds to CSU's federally backed lender, as required by Title IV and U.S. Department of Education Guidelines. CSU asserted that it was seeking repayment only for the courses in which Simpson remained enrolled but that were not covered as a result of his returned financial aid.

         {¶ 7} CSU attached to its motion various documents that it asserted demonstrated Simpson's debt, as well as a copy of CSU's RTIV Policy. None of these documents were authenticated as required by Civ.R. 56(C). CSU also attached to its motion the affidavit of Robert Yono, an external collections support coordinator with the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Collection Enforcement Section, in which Yono averred that Simpson owed CSU $3, 820.48, with interest and collection costs continuing to accrue. Yono identified the current certified amount due as $2, 363.50; current ...


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