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Galligan v. Adtalem Global Education, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 15, 2020

PETER M. GALLIGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
ADTALEM GLOBAL EDUCATION INC. F/K/A DEVRY EDUCATION GROUP; ADTALEM GLOBAL HEALTH, INC. F/K/A DEVRY MEDICAL INTERNATIONAL, INC.; ROSS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE SCHOOL OF VETERINARY MEDICINE ST. KITTS LIMITED; and DOES 1 THROUGH 50, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOAN H. LEFKOW, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Peter Galligan was dismissed from Ross University School of Medicine School of Veterinary Medicine (St. Kitts) Ltd. (“Ross”) in 2015. He now sues Ross, two of its corporate parents-Adtalem Global Health, Inc. f/k/a DeVry Medical International, Inc. (“DeVry Medical”) and Adtalem Global Education, Inc. f/k/a DeVry Education Group (“Adtalem”)-and fifty unnamed defendants. This court substantially narrowed his claims in a February 2019 order. (Dkt. 48.) After Galligan repleaded certain claims that were dismissed without prejudice, the defendants again move to dismiss. The motion is granted.[1]

         BACKGROUND[2]

         Peter Galligan suffers from severe test anxiety, which requires special accommodations when he takes exams. (Dkt. 57 ¶ 2.) While looking for a veterinary school, Galligan found Ross, which is in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. (Id. ¶ 25.) Ross is operated by DeVry Medical, a Florida corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey that is a “reporting division” of Adtalem, a Delaware corporation headquartered in Illinois. (Id. ¶¶ 6-8.) Ross is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). (Id. ¶ 20.)

         Before applying, Galligan read and relied on Ross's corporate strategic vision statement, which promised to “increase total student numbers via reduced attrition . . . by increasing the quantity of quality student applicants, resulting in an increased completion rate.” (Id. ¶ 26.) In July 2012, he also considered Adtalem's CEO's statement that “our culture of care is a palpable differentiator for us. . . . And how do we deliver DeVry Group Care? By staying true to DeVry Group's purpose, vision and . . . values . . . [one of which is] accountability.” (Id. ¶ 28.) Galligan took these statements to mean that Ross would make efforts to ensure that its students did not fail and that their disabilities would be accommodated.

         Galligan also reviewed Ross's Student Handbook before enrolling. (Id. ¶ 27.) He identifies five statements from the Handbook that he relied on in his decision to attend Ross:

• “It is RUSVM's policy to provide an environment free of unlawful harassment or discrimination based on ... disability”;
• “RUSVM complies with all applicable laws regarding discrimination, harassment, retaliation and equal opportunity...”;
• “RUSVM is committed to ensuring that qualified students with disabilities are afforded reasonable accommodation...”;
• “The mental and emotional stability of students is a primary concern of RUSVM….”; and
• “It is an offense for any candidate to make use of unfair means in any RUSVM assessment, to assist a candidate to make use of such unfair means, [or] to do anything prejudicial to the good conduct of the assessment. . . . Receipt or transmission of unauthorized aid on assignments or examinations . . . unauthorized and/or improper use of examination materials, or other forms of dishonesty in academic fairs are also considered as academic misconduct.”

(Id. ¶ 70.) In briefing on this motion, however, Galligan admits that these verbatim quotations from the Handbook that he alleges induced him to enroll at Ross in 2013 were in fact made in 2017. (Dkt. 69 at 9-10.) Indeed, though Galligan could have seen a modified version of two of the five quoted passages in handbooks that existed before the date he decided to enroll at Ross, the other three did not appear in any of them. (Id.)

         Galligan matriculated at Ross in 2013 and immediately requested accommodations for his testing anxiety from Ross psychologist Dr. Janet Camp, which she denied. (Id. ¶¶ 32-34, 39.) This court held in its February 2019 order that Galligan plausibly claimed that this denial constituted a breach of contract. (Dkt. 48 at 17.) Galligan now also claims that it constituted a breach of Ross's obligations under the AVMA accreditation standards. (Dkt. 57 ¶ 58.) Without testing accommodations, Galligan failed three of his four classes during his second semester. (Id. ¶ 35.) Galligan was placed on academic probation and passed all of his classes in his repeat of his second semester, as well as in his third and fourth semesters. (Id. ¶¶ 40-41.)

         In one class in Galligan's fifth semester at Ross, the professor recycled old test questions, allowing unscrupulous students to learn answers to an upcoming test by reviewing old exams they had stolen from a test bank. (Id. ¶¶ 52-54.) Galligan-an Eagle Scout and church leader- refused to cheat and failed the class. (Id. ¶¶ 47, 51, 54.) Galligan alleges that Ross tolerated similar cheating in many other classes as well, in violation of both the student handbook and the AVMA accreditation standards. (Id. ¶¶ 43-50.)

         After failing his fourth class, Galligan was dismissed from Ross. (Id. ¶ 54.) Galligan alleges that he received an inadequate appeal process and that his dismissal was in fact in retaliation for requesting accommodations and reporting widespread cheating. (Id. ¶¶ 55-57.) He alleges that other students who failed multiple classes were not expelled. (Id. ¶ 62.)

         This suit followed. As stated above, only a breach of contract claim, based on Ross's failure to provide accommodations and alleged retaliatory dismissal, survived the first motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 48 at 17.) Galligan has repleaded all of his state-law claims in his third amended complaint. He claims that Ross either intentionally (count 1) or negligently (count 2) misstated facts to induce him to enroll because, in light of his experiences at Ross, everything he heard from Ross and Adtalem before enrolling was false. He also alleges that Ross breached both its contract with him and the AVMA accreditation standards by failing to follow its academic-probation protocols, overlooking other students' cheating, failing to accommodate his disability, and retaliating against him (count 3). He further claims that Ross ...


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