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NC legislature passes bill shielding colleges, universities from COVID-related claims seeking refunds

<p>The North Carolina State Legislative Building</p>

The North Carolina State Legislative Building

The North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill Thursday that protects colleges and universities from legal claims over coronavirus-related closures.

Senate Bill 208 grants immunity to institutions of higher education in North Carolina against claims concerning Spring 2020 tuition and fees that are related to campus closures due to COVID-19. It grants immunity for any “alleged acts or omissions” between Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 10 emergency declaration and June 1, and applies to actions taken on or after March 27. 

The bill currently awaits NC Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature after being introduced and passed in two days.

“It is a matter of vital State concern affecting the public health, safety, and welfare that institutions of higher education continue to be able to fulfill their educational missions during the COVID-19 pandemic without civil liability for any acts or omissions for which immunity is provided in this Article,” the bill reads.

The new bill states that the immunity applies for any claim related to Spring 2020 tuition or fees and pertaining to losses “arising from an act or omission by the institution of higher education during or in response to COVID-19,” provided that the institution was acting in favor of “public health, safety or welfare” and offered remote learning for the Spring semester.

An anonymous student filed a class action lawsuit May 8 against Duke, alleging a breach of contract after campus access was restricted March 10. The lawsuit requested repayment of unrefunded Spring semester tuition, fees and room and board, among other damages. 

Duke had previously announced housing and dining refunds and credits for parking permit fees.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, declined to comment on the passing of the bill. 

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