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McCabe v. Marywood University

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 18, 2017

DANIELLE MCCABE, Appellant
v.
MARYWOOD UNIVERSITY, Appellee

         Appeal from the Order Entered August 10, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County Civil Division at No(s): 16-CV-2550

          BEFORE: SHOGAN and MOULTON, JJ., and STEVENS, P.J.E.[*]

          OPINION

          SHOGAN, J.

         Danielle McCabe ("McCabe") appeals from the order sustaining preliminary objections filed by Marywood University ("Marywood") and dismissing her claims for breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL"), unjust enrichment, and promissory estoppel. We affirm.

         Marywood is a private university in Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. It operates a department of nursing, providing academic and clinical courses in support of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing ("the nursing program"). Upon graduation, nursing students take the National Council Licensure Examination ("NCLEX") in order to obtain a license to practice nursing. Prior to 2010, the nursing program was fully accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission ("NLNAC"), currently known as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Marywood underwent an NLNAC accreditation review in the spring of 2010, after which NLNAC granted it accreditation until 2018 with conditions. Marywood had two years in which to make changes to the nursing program or its NLNAC accreditation would be revoked. As of the fall of 2010, Marywood continued to represent on its website and in its printed literature that the nursing program was accredited, without defining or qualifying that status. McCabe entered Marywood as a nursing student in August of 2011. On November 13, 2011, chair of the nursing department, Dr. Mary Alice Golden, R.N., informed current and prospective students by letter that Marywood's accreditation status with the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing had been downgraded to "provisional" as a result of a lower passing rate on the NCLEX. Two days later, Dr. Golden issued a clarification letter, explaining that the "provisional" state nursing board status had no effect on the nursing program's NLNAC accreditation status.

         In November of 2012, an NLNAC Evaluation Review Panel ("ERP") inspected Marywood for the purpose of evaluating the nursing program's accreditation status. On January 30, 2013, Marywood learned that the ERP was recommending revocation of Marywood's NLNAC accreditation. On April 2, 2013, NLNAC notified Marywood that the nursing program's accreditation had been revoked for failing to meet certain standards and criteria. On April 10, 2013, a few weeks before McCabe's second-year final exams, Marywood informed the nursing program students that it had lost NLNAC accreditation. Marywood then timely appealed the revocation on April 22, 2013. Pursuant to NLNAC policy, Marywood's appeal restored its conditional accreditation with warning status during the pendency of the appeal. In August of 2014, the NLNAC restored the nursing program's full accreditation. Of note, had Marywood not prevailed on appeal, revocation of the nursing program's accreditation would have been retroactive to April 2, 2013.

         As a result of the nursing program's conditional accreditation status, McCabe chose not to return to Marywood in the fall of 2013. Instead, she transferred to another school. On April 20, 2016, McCabe filed suit against Marywood for damages, i.e., the various expenses incurred as a result of transferring schools, as well as a loss of income and employment opportunities due to her delayed graduation. Marywood filed preliminary objections on May 24, 2016, which the trial court sustained. This appeal followed. McCabe and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.[1]

         McCabe raises the following issues for our consideration:

I. Whether the trial court erred in finding that Ms. McCabe did not plead sufficient facts to establish a duty on Marywood to provide Ms. McCabe with an education from a fully-accredited nursing program?
II. Whether the trial court erred in finding that Ms. McCabe did not suffer harm as a result of her reliance on fraudulent misrepresentations made by Marywood?
III. Whether the trial court erred in finding that Marywood was not unjustly enriched by receiving tuition from Ms. McCabe despite falsely representing its accreditation status and ultimately losing its accreditation?
IV. Whether the trial court erred in dismissing Ms. McCabe's claim for promissory estoppel when Marywood falsely represented its accreditation status and ultimately lost its accreditation?

         McCabe's Brief at 4 (full capitalization omitted).

         Our standard and scope of review over a trial court's decision to sustain a litigant's ...


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