The Sixth Circuit on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of claims brought by twelve graduates of Thomas M. Cooley Law School based on Cooley’s alleged misrepresentation of graduates’ employment rates and salaries. (MacDonald v. Thomas M. Cooley Law School) The graduates sought, among other things, partial reimbursement of tuition for a class of graduates that was estimated to exceed $300,000,000. Cooley is both the largest law school in the country and the least selective in its admissions. This lawsuit is one of several lawsuits that have been brought throughout the country based on similar alleged misrepresentations, including suits against New York Law School, John Marshall Law School, and Chicago-Kent School of Law.
The plaintiffs focused their claims on two alleged misrepresentations by Cooley: the “percentage of graduates employed” statistic and the “average starting salary of all graduates” statistic. The graduates brought claims under Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act, common-law fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. The Sixth Circuit upheld the dismissal of all three claims. The graduates were not able to maintain claims under Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act because the act does not apply to the purchase of education in order to obtain employment. The plaintiffs could not maintain fraud and misrepresentation claims with respect to the percentage of graduates employed statistic because it was “literally true.” The plaintiffs’ “subjective misunderstandings” of the statistics were not sufficient to support claims of misrepresentation. The fraud and misrepresentation claims also failed with respect to the average starting salary statistic because language in the school’s materials made it clear that the statistic only reflected the average starting salary of those graduates who had responded to an employment survey.
This decision by the Sixth Circuit is consistent with those of other courts throughout the country that have dismissed similar claims against law schools.