Hogan v. Southern Methodist Univ, No. 22-10433 (5th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, on behalf of a putative class of students, sued Southern Methodist University (“SMU”) for refusing to refund tuition and fees after the university switched to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim.
The Fifth Circuit reversed that decision in light of King v. Baylor University, 46 F.4th 344 (5th Cir. 2022), which was issued after the district court’s ruling and which teaches that Hogan adequately pled a breach-of-contract claim. Alternatively, the district court held that Texas’s Pandemic Liability Protection Act (“PLPA”) retroactively bars Plaintiff’s claim for monetary relief and is not unconstitutionally retroactive under the Texas Constitution. That latter ruling raises a determinative-but-unsettled question of state constitutional law, which the court certified to the Texas Supreme Court: Does the application of the Pandemic Liability Protection Act to Plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim violate the retroactivity clause in article I, section 16 of the Texas Constitution?