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Merlitti v. The University of Akron

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

December 5, 2019

Tonya Merlitti, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
The University of Akron, Defendant-Appellee.

          APPEAL from the Court of Claims of Ohio (Ct. of Cl. No. 2019-00070JD)

         On brief:

          Law Offices of Warner Mendenhall, Warner Mendenhall, Brian Unger, and Logan Trombley, for appellant.

          Dave Yost, Attorney General, Lee Ann Rabe, and Lauren D. Emery, for appellee.

         Argued:

          Brian Unger.

          Lee Ann Rabe.

          DECISION

          LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Tonya Merlitti, appeals from a decision and judgment entry of the Court of Claims of Ohio granting the motion to dismiss of defendant-appellee, The University of Akron ("the University"). For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} On January 29, 2019, Merlitti filed a complaint asserting breach of contract against the University where Merlitti was a former graduate student. After filing her original complaint, the University filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6). Merlitti opposed the motion to dismiss and also filed an amended complaint.

         {¶ 3} Pursuant to her amended complaint, Merlitti was a graduate student in the University's master's degree program in marriage and family therapy from January 2012 until January 2016. The amended complaint states Merlitti paid tuition in full and completed all required coursework, and it further states she was set to graduate from the program in December 2015 upon completion of a required clinical practicum. After initially enrolling in a practicum assignment with Greenleaf Family Center in January 2015, Merlitti ultimately enrolled in a different practicum with Family Pride of Northeast Ohio beginning in June 2015.

         {¶ 4} Merlitti alleges in her complaint that Family Pride was satisfied with her performance and offered her a full-time position contingent upon her graduation from the University in December 2015. In October 2015, Merlitti alleges she met with her practicum supervisor from Family Pride at a McDonald's restaurant to discuss practicum matters. After reporting the meeting to her professor at the University, Merlitti alleges her professor told her the meeting was unethical and ordered Merlitti not to return to class. Subsequently, on November 18, 2015, Family Pride terminated Merlitti's practicum placement and rescinded her offer of full-time employment based on conversations between the University's faculty members and Family Pride. The University then awarded Merlitti a grade of "no credit" for her clinical practicum, preventing her from graduating in December 2015.

         {¶ 5} The amended complaint further alleges that after awarding Merlitti a "no credit" grade for her practicum, the University then compiled 23 allegations against Merlitti and adjudicated those allegations at a University hearing. Merlitti contested the validity of all 23 allegations. At the conclusion of the hearing, the University dismissed Merlitti from its marriage and family therapy program on January 7, 2016 for alleged violations of the ethical standards of the marriage and family therapy profession. Merlitti asserts in her amended complaint that the ...


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