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Dismissal of Class Claims against the Eagleton School

Key Facts

  • Judge granted motion to dismiss class claims alleging all students had experienced physical and emotional abuse
  • We demonstrated that legal elements of the class claims could not be satisfied through proof common to the class as a whole
  • Dismissal of class claims spared clients the burden and expense of discovery

The Situation

Reports of altercations between staff and students at the Eagleton School led to a highly publicized raid by law enforcement officials and the ultimate closure of the school. Personal injury lawsuits by students claiming to have suffered abuse soon followed. One suit, however, also asserted personal injury claims on behalf of a putative class consisting of every student who had attended the Eagleton School during the relevant period. The large national property and casualty insurer covering the school’s defense needed experienced class action counsel to respond to this new threat. They called Mintz.

The Approach

We were brought in shortly before the deadline for the Eagleton School to respond to the complaint. Within a matter of days we formulated a detailed legal and strategic analysis. Based on the unsuitability of personal injury claims for adjudication through common proof, we believed that there were strong grounds to move to dismiss or strike the class allegations. While such relief is rarely granted, in appropriate cases it can block attempts to certify a plaintiff class and spare the defendants the burden and expense of discovery. However, we did not believe there was sufficient time to prepare motion papers before the response deadline. Rather than seek a further extension of time, we advised our clients to answer the complaint, then move for judgment on the pleadings to dismiss the class claims. The clients and insurer concurred with this approach, which allowed us to prepare and move for dismissal at a time of our own choosing.

The Outcome

We demonstrated that this was the rare case that merited dismissal of class claims at the beginning of the case. We responded to the plaintiffs’ argument that it was premature to address the availability of class relief by demonstrating to the court that the legal elements of plaintiffs’ claims could not be satisfied through evidence that was common to the entire class, and that no amount of discovery could change those elements or alter the class’s burden of proof. The court agreed and dismissed the class claims.

Supporting Professionals

Our Mintz team included Kevin McGinty, a Member in the firm’s Boston office, and Patrick McDonough, an Associate in the firm’s Boston office.