United States District Court, D. Maryland
ERIC D. STREETER
WALDEN UNIVERSITY, LLC, et al.
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge
plaintiff, Eric D. Streeter, has sued the defendants, Walden
University and Laureate Education, claiming that their
unjustified delay of his doctoral program, among other
things, gives rise to six legal claims: breach of contract;
unjust enrichment; violation of the Maryland Consumer
Protection Act; violation of the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment; libel under Florida law; and violation
of the False Claims Act. The defendants filed a motion to
dismiss, that, for the reasons found below, will be granted.
enrolled in Walden University's Doctorate in Business
Administration program in the summer of 2010. (Compl.
¶¶ 50-51). Between the summer of 2012 and the fall of
2014, Streeter was enrolled in a dissertation course meant to
guide students through the dissertation writing process.
(Id. at ¶ 58). The dissertation process has
five stages: (1) develop and write a premise; (2) develop a
prospectus; (3) write a proposal; (4) study or research the
subject of the dissertation; and (5) defend the dissertation.
(Id. at ¶ 22). At each stage, a student needs
faculty approval before proceeding to the next step.
(Id. at ¶ 23). For example, a student's
prospectus must be approved “by both the dissertation
supervisory committee chair and the committee member”
before the student may write a proposal. (Id. at
February 2012, Streeter submitted his prospectus to the
supervisory committee for approval. (Id. at ¶
59). It was approved and his supervisory committee was
created. (Id.). Over the next two years, however,
the composition of Streeter's supervisory committee
changed twice: first, Dr. Lionel deSouza replaced a committee
member; then, after Streeter requested a new committee chair,
the University appointed Dr. deSouza to the position of chair
despite Streeter suggesting one of three other faculty
members for the position. (Id. at ¶¶
60-61). Soon after, Streeter learned that Dr. deSouza did not
support aspects of his proposed doctoral study. (Id.
at ¶ 62). He was asked to start over. (Id.).
response, Streeter petitioned the university for
reimbursement of the money he spent developing his original
doctoral study. (Id. at ¶ 63). After his
petition was denied, Streeter requested a teleconference with
the university's ombudsman, the director of his program,
and anyone else the university thought necessary to the
resolution of his grievances. (Id. at ¶ 64).
Streeter was again rebuffed. (Id.). Streeter now
sues Walden and Laureate claiming they unlawfully expanded
the length and cost of his doctoral program. (ECF No.
Walden and Laureate responded with a motion to dismiss the
complaint. (ECF No. 19). For the following reasons, the court
will grant the motion.
survive a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of a
complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level on the assumption that all the
allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in
fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). “To
satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need not
‘forecast' evidence sufficient to prove the
elements of the claim. However, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts to establish those elements.”
Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir.
2012) (citation omitted). “Thus, while a plaintiff does
not need to demonstrate in a complaint that the right to
relief is ‘probable, ' the complaint must advance
the plaintiff's claim ‘across the line from
conceivable to plausible.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). And the plaintiff
typically must do so by relying solely on facts asserted
within the four corners of his complaint. Zak v. Chelsea
Therapeutics Intern., Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 606-07 (4th
claims that Walden and Laureate,  by extending the length of
his doctoral program: breached their contractual obligations;
were unjustly enriched; violated the Maryland Consumer
Protection Act, Md. Code Com. Law, § 13-301 et
seq.; violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment; committed libel under Florida law; and violated
the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729.
Breach of Contract
argues Walden and Laureate breached their contractual
obligation to provide him feedback on his dissertation
proposal within fourteen days.
Maryland law, matriculation creates a contractual
relationship between student and university with terms which
may be “contained in the brochures, course offering
bulletins, and other official statements, policies and
publications of a university.” Harwood v. Johns
Hopkins University, 747 A.2d 205, 209 (Md.App. 2000)
(internal quotations omitted). Although courts will enforce
these contracts under certain circumstances, especially when
a student has completed all of her degree requirements and
denial of a degree would be “arbitrary and capricious,
” they should be “mindful of their lack of
competence in assessing academic judgments.”
Onawola v. Johns Hopkins University, 412 F.Supp.2d
529, 532 (D. Md. 2006).
his matriculation there is no doubt some contract was formed
between Streeter and the defendants or that among the
university's “official statements, policies and
publications” there is a fourteen day response
policy. But Streeter never identifies the
particular circumstances surrounding the defendants'
delayed response; the complaint fails ...