Monday, April 21, 2003
C.A. Throws Out Claim That College Course Was a Fraud
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A claim that the Long Beach Community College District defrauded 14 students by inducing them to take a course that turned out to be worthless because the jobs they were supposed to qualify for after completing their studies were not available to them has been thrown out by this district’s Court of Appeal.
“[W]e agree with defendant that it may not be civilly liable for failing to properly educate plaintiffs,” Justice Orville Armstrong wrote Thursday in an unpublished opinion for Div. Five, which granted a writ of mandate directing dismissal of the claim.
The students involved sued the college, along with the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, Local 13 and Pacific Maritime Association.
They claimed that they enrolled in a course in mechanical maintenance technology developed by the school in association with the union, in reliance upon brochures saying that by completing the course, each student would qualify to become a “waterfront mechanic” and be prepared for “an entry level position” in the longshore industry.
In fact, the plaintiffs alleged, the defendants knew there were no entry-level jobs available in the industry. The plaintiffs also claimed that had they known there were no jobs available, they would not have taken the course.
The claim against the college was labeled breach of contract. Armstrong noted, however, that the college was accused of having made fraudulent representations in order to induce the plaintiffs to take the class.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kenneth R. Freeman, the justice said, erred in overruling the college’s demurrer. The plaintiffs, he said, failed to state a viable claim in contract or tort.
Prior California cases, Armstrong said, have held that a student who matriculates at a secondary school or community college and who is dissatisfied with his or her education has no cause of action against school authorities.
Besides, the justice noted, the state has not waived sovereign immunity with respect to claims of misrepresentation. And their allegations must be treated as such a claim, even though labeled as breach of contract, Armstrong said.
Attorneys on appeal were Gary Robert Gibeaut and John W. Allen of Gibeaut, Mahan & Briscoe for the district and Marshall A. Caskey and Daniel M. Holzman of Caskey & Holzman for the plaintiffs.
The case is Long Beach Community College District v. Superior Court (Turner), B162452.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company