A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking a refund for a study abroad program that was canceled early this spring because of the coronavirus.

Annie Zhou, a student from Texas, sued after Portland-based CIEE canceled her semester in Amsterdam in mid-March, after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by U.S. and international organizations. CIEE shifted Zhou to an online program so she could complete the semester and earn credits for the courses she had been taking at the University of Amsterdam.

But Zhou sued, arguing that she was owed at least a partial reimbursement for the program.

“CIEE undeniably made the right decision to cancel its study abroad programs in light of travel restrictions and safety concerns posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it erred by placing 100 percent of the financial burden of that cancellation on financially strapped young adults, many of whom went into debt to pay for overseas educational programs, internships, housing, activities, and services that CIEE did not deliver,” the complaint said.

This week, Federal District Court Judge Lance Walker disagreed and dismissed the suit.

Walker said the contract between Zhou, other students and CIEE spelled out what would happen in the event of cancellations and even listed a pandemic as one of the reasons for canceling the overseas portion of the program.

Walker also dismissed a second argument in the suit, alleging that CIEE had unjustly enriched itself as a result of the cancellation. Walker said that argument can be used only in cases where there is no contract between the parties.

Portland-based CIEE suspended all of its spring programs in March. The nonprofit’s website said only those who could not finish their classes virtually would be considered for refunds.

The case reflected other legal challenges spurred by the pandemic. The Associated Press reported in May that students at more than 25 American universities had sued their schools, demanding partial refunds on tuition and campus fees.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: