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C&C Secures Dismissal For Private College Based On Lack Of Personal Jurisdicion

The issue of personal jurisdiction is one that can be faced by any institution of higher education seeking to attract scholars from around the country. Can a university located in one state, but that recruits and advertises in locales around the nation, be sued into court in any state where it recruits or advertises? This is the decision that recently faced the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, which held for the university.

Plaintiff in the suit in question was a citizen of the state of Connecticut. He was allegedly injured in a fall down a set of stairs on the school's campus in Rhode Island. The school at issue does not have a campus or otherwise own property in Connecticut, it does not have employees in Connecticut, it does not have bank accounts in Connecticut. The university recruits and admits students from all states, including Connecticut. Although it does not advertise in Connecticut by way of traditional media, the school's recruiting arm does visit Connecticut high schools and college fairs and it mails many applications to Connecticut each year. In addition,15% or so of the college's graduating classes from 2003-2005 came from Connecticut. Some portion of the college's alumni base is also located in Connecticut.

The Court held that imposing Connecticut jurisdiction on the college would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. In support of its decision, the court distinguished this matter from one dealing with a for profit corporation and recognized that "most states have a shared substantive social policy of supporting non-profit educational institutions." Finally, the court noted that "'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice strongly militate against holding that a non-profit educational institution renders itself subject to service of process in every state of the union from which it may seek or attract outstanding scholars.'"

For follow-up questions about this article or other legal issues facing higher education, contact James E. Carroll or C. Alexa Abowitz at (617) 217-5500.


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