Students nowadays deal with a lot: social anxiety, family expectations, and the pandemic. Young students may have the gift of youth but none of the financial freedom and street smarts to tackle adult problems. Some may even face legal challenges. And when parents, guardians, and educators can’t help, law books, Google, and actual lawyers can come to the rescue.
Law students, however, are something else — they take matters into their own hands. The following are cases involving law students who sued their professor and/or school. For good measure, we graded these students based on how fascinating their cases are (full disclosure: grades are completely arbitrary).
UK law student discovers his law books are useful for lawyering
If you book a hotel room that looks nothing like the ad on the website or a booking site, you may be entitled to compensation or a refund for breach of consumer rights. Talking to the manager also works, but suing is certainly an option. The same applies when booking a dormitory room at a university. Students who book dormitory rooms and find that their room resembles a dilapidated storage space can cite consumer rights. Not many young students may know this.
British law student Jack Simm may be young, but he knew his rights. In 2021, Mr. Simm sued the landlord of his university’s accommodation, which he booked because he thought he was getting an “upmarket student accommodation room.” Instead, he got a room that according to him can be best described as a “building site.”
Whereas other students (i.e., ones who are not taking up law) wouldn’t be so audacious, Mr. Simm cracked open his law textbooks and put to use his recently acquired knowledge about contract law. He sued for breach of contract and misrepresentation and won.
Grade: A for Audacity
Students ask Harvard to halve hefty tuition
Being accepted into Harvard Law School (HLS) is many people’s dream. Those who did get into HLS during the coronavirus pandemic, however, only got half the Harvard experience, as classes had to be conducted online for health and safety reasons. According to Harvard Law student Abraham Barkhordar, the university should have lowered its tuition prices and fees because of this. But Harvard said, “Nope.”
Mr. Barkhordar sued the university on these grounds:
- Breach of contract – for failing to give students in-person classes for the whole semester
- Unjust enrichment – for making money off the reduced overhead expenses
- Conversion – for converting the tuition paid by the students to benefit themselves (i.e., Harvard)
Per Mr. Barkhordar's suit, the remote learning option is subpar compared to the in-person education that was purportedly promised to students upon attending the school. He also cited other difficulties in online law schooling, such as not having personal interactions with professors and classmates and having no access to a library.
The complaint, which was turned into a class-action lawsuit, was eventually dismissed. According to the judge’s ruling, the students who sued HLS failed to prove that Harvard had contractually promised in-person classes and access to on-campus facilities. If it’s any consolation to Mr. Barkhordar, not many Harvard Law students can say they sued their own law school like he did.
Grade: C+ for Class-action
Tort law professor gets sued for inflicting injury to a student to demonstrate a personal injury scenario
It is often said that those who can’t do, teach. This may not apply to most law professors who are practicing lawyers. On the other hand, some law professors may be too good at the ‘doing’ part of teaching. Case in point: Pace University Law professor Gary Munneke who teaches tort law, or the law of wrongful injuries. In one class, he decided to demonstrate a wrongful injury scenario by inflicting injury on one of his students.
To show his class an example of an injury that a person can be sued for, he called on Ms. Denise DiFede, one of his students. He asked her to sit on a chair in front of the class. As she was sitting, he pulled the chair, which caused Ms. DiFede to fall on the floor and hurt herself.
So Ms. DiFede sued Mr. Munneke for personal injury. She sought monetary damages against the professor and the school for battery, negligence, pain, and suffering. Ultimately, it was the student who taught her professor a very valuable lesson in irony.
Grade: C for Chair-pulling
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