As reported here in the N.Y. Times, Judge Melvin L. Schweitzer, a New York Supreme Court judge, dismissed a lawsuit brought by nine graduates of New York Law School who accused their alma mater of misleading them about their postgraduate employment prospects. “In this court’s view, the issues posed by this case exemplify the adage that not every ailment afflicting society may be redressed by a lawsuit,” he wrote.
Throughout his opinion, Jude Schweitzer looks to the reasonableness of the plaintiff’s claims and whether a reasonable college graduate would have relied on the representations. He notes that college graduates “seriously considering law schools are a sophisticated subset of education consumers, capable of sifting through data and weighing alternatives before making a decision regarding their postcollege options,” [Query whether all college graduates, are sophisticated and whether they have the ability to shift through law school data.]
Although the opinion does not bode well for other similar suits, it may not be a good predictor of the results in other cases, based on different state law. According to Judge Schweitzer, the N.Y, Deceptive Practices Act upon which the case was based requires that “plaintiffs must plead that NYLS has engaged ‘in an act or practice that is deceptive or misleading in a material way . . . to a reasonable consumer.’” The court concluded that, “NYLS's statements could not have been materially misleading to a reasonable consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances, i.e. taking into account the obvious, dramatic changes in the economy as they began to impact the legal profession.”
Not all states, however, impose such an objective standard under their unfair and deceptive practices act statutes. In many cases, courts apply a more subjective standard to both deception and reliance. Only time will tell if that makes a difference in the remaining suits.