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Appeals Court Overturns $285,019 Award to
Former Chiropractic Students

The Missouri Court of Appeals has overturned a large damage award to nineteen 1997 graduates of Cleveland Chiropractic College (CCC), in Kansas City, who had charged that their education had been inadequate. The suit, filed in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1999, charged that the school had failed to provide adequate teaching as promised by promotional literature and school representatives [1]. The suit sought a total of $22 million for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and fraud. The allegations included:

CCC president Carl Cleveland III stated that the school would defend the suit viogorously [2]. The plaintiffs wererepresented by James J. Jarrow, Esq., of Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice, of Kansas City, Missouri.

In November 2000, when the case came to trial the students said that a school statement that the college's clinic had "ample volume and variety" of patients had been crucial in their decision to attend the school. The jury decided that the college had not committed fraud or breach of contract. However, the jury awarded each of the former students $1 for actual damages and $15,000 in punitive damages for negligently failing to disclose that the students would have to recruit most of their own patients [3]. When the college appealed, the appeals court upheld the jury's conclusions but threw out the punitive damage award. The court ruled that the students did not present convincing evidence to show that the college knew that misrepresenting patient availability would result in injury or loss to its students [4]. Even though the lawsuit was unsuccessful, the case is important because it exposed the fact that many students have trouble finding enough genuine patients to meet accreditation standards.

In 1996, in a similar suit, the jury awarded $93,000 in actual damages plus $45,000 in punitive damages to Julie Bernet, a former CCC student who stated that to meet quotas, students were required to entice friends and family into the clinic and then charge them for chiropractic treatment they did not need [5]. During the trial, a former instructor testified that between 1991 and 1995, she knew of no student who met the clinical requirements solely by relying on patients provided by the clinic [6]. The case was later settled for an undisclosed sum [1].

References

  1. Trokyna et al v. Cleveland Chiropractic College. Civil action No. 99-0746-CV-W-2. Filed Aug 3, 1999, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
  2. Morris M. Chiropractic college students file suit. Class says recruiting patients was a part of the requirements. Kansas City Star, Aug 5, 1999, p B2.
  3. Jury finds for former chiropractic students on one point, school on two. Associated Press, Nov 29, 2000.
  4. Morris M. Punitive damages awarded to ex-students of KC chiropractic college thrown out. Kansas City Star, Feb 22, 2002.
  5. Burnet J. Affidavit, April 12, 1996.
  6. Menninger B. Student policies questioned in school verdict. Kansas City Business Journal, July 12-18, 1996, pp. 1,42.

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This article was revised on March 31, 2002.