The Third Circuit recently affirmed a decision from the District Court of New Jersey denying class certification in an action alleging that Widener University School of Law defrauded its students by publishing and marketing misleading statistics about graduates’ employment rates. In its precedential opinion adjudicating plaintiffs’ interlocutory appeal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(f), the Third Circuit concluded that although the District Court misconstrued plaintiffs’ damages theory, the error was harmless because the Court would have nonetheless concluded that plaintiffs failed to satisfy the predominance requirement. This opinion, authored by Circuit Judge Chagares, is an example of defendants defeating class certification when plaintiffs cannot proffer a valid method of proving class-wide damages, as required by the U.S. Supreme Court in Comcast v. Behrend several years ago.
By way of background, plaintiffs were graduates of Widener Law who alleged that the school violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (“NJCFA”) and the Delaware Consumer Fraud Act (“DCFA”) by advertising misleading statistics about alumni employment rates; they claimed that the statistics included non-legal and part-time positions without categorical break down, thereby causing students to believe that the statistics were for full-time legal employment. Plaintiffs alleged that the misleading statistics allowed Widener Law to charge higher tuition than it would have received if the accurate statistics were marketed and published. Plaintiffs sought damages in the amount of overpaid tuition.