Philadelphia, PA – November 13, 2015:
A consumer fraud class action against an occupational school on behalf of those seeking certification as surgical technicians, Polanco v. Star Career Academy, ended with a Camden County jury awarding a $2.97 million sum that’s subject to trebling, interest and fees.
The suit contended that Star Career Academy, which is based in New Jersey and has several campuses in the state as well as in neighboring states, continued to offer a surgical technology program even after the certificate earned in that program became largely unacceptable by employing hospitals due to a 2011 change in the law, according to Patricia Pierce and Ronald Greenblatt of Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores in Philadelphia, who, along with Thomas Marrone, represented the plaintiffs.
The suit alleged that Star made misrepresentations in its externship and job information and statistics, and failed to advise students about the issues with the program certificate leading up and after the 2011 law change — all in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA).
The suit, filed in 2013, claimed as damages the sums paid for enrollment in the program. A class, consisting of anyone enrolled as of June 2011 or after, was certified last year, according to the lawyers.
Star denied making misrepresentations in its job statistics and challenged class certification, they said.
After a five-week trial before Camden County Superior Court Judge Anthony Pugliese, the jury on Oct. 29 found that Star had violated the CFA and awarded $2.97 million. Statutory trebling and interest raises the award to about $9.2 million, according to the lawyers.
The plaintiffs now are seeking disgorgement of $6 million taken in by Star in the form of government grants for students, and, as per the CFA’s fee-shifting provision, will seek in excess of $2.5 million in fees, according to the lawyers.
A hearing before Pugliese — for a determination on fees and any posttrial motions by Star, and for entry of judgement — is scheduled for January, the lawyers said.
Michael Nicodema of Greenberg Traurig in Florham Park, Star’s counsel, didn’t return a call seeking comment on the verdict.
Source: Suits & Deals: Consumer Fraud Case Against School, With Statutory Trebling, Yields $9.2M, November 13, 2015