‘Good first step.’ Attorney reacts to legal victory for former Stone Academy students against school
Former Stone Academy students who are suing the now closed-down nursing school for damages scored a legal victory this week. A Superior Court judge granted them a $5 million pre-judgment before they’ve even gone to trial.
“We think this is a really good first step,” said David Slossberg, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
The ruling from Judge Barbara Bellis doesn’t give the plaintiffs money yet. It means the defendants have to put aside $5 million, which would be guaranteed to go to the students should they win when the case goes before a jury.
The suit filed on behalf of Stone Academy students who saw their lives turned upside down when the nursing school abruptly closed its three campuses in February. Hundreds of students were left with incomplete degrees and pending loans.
“Really Stone Academy failed them, promised them something that they didn't deliver,” Slossberg stated.
Slossberg is working with attorneys Timothy Cowan, Erica Nolan and Kristen Zaehringer on the case, which currently has eight women named as plaintiffs. But the lawsuit is expected to become a class action which Bellis noted in her decision, writing, “"Even at this early stage, the court finds probable cause that a class will be certified, and that the class is likely to prevail...."
“The court's assessment of the evidence gives us a clue as to what the court thinks of the merits of the case. I mean, we've always thought we have a strong case, and I think this confirms that,” Slossberg told News 12.
He explained the ruling allows his team to do a “robust review” of the defendants' finances and determine what assets exist. Slossberg called the $5million pre-judgement a baseline that he hopes leads to real relief for these students.
“I look at it as a floor not a ceiling,” Slossberg said, explaining that it won’t affect what they seek at trial. “There's lots of other things that will be the subject of trial so certainly we'll be asking for more damages when we're before a jury."
Slossberg said he and the attorneys are in the middle of discovery right now with jury selection set for September of next year.
This suit is separate from the one filed by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who alleges Stone Academy's owners cheated students out of a promised education and siphoned millions of dollars from the nursing school.
State Sen. Kevin Kelly, whose district includes Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford and who is the ranking senator on the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee, issued a statement Tuesday on the pre-judgement remedy:
“This early court win is an encouraging step for these students who deserve relief. The Attorney General continues to pursue justice in this unfortunate situation. Stone Academy apparently did not fulfill its promise to its students, and for that there must be consequences. In the legislature this year, we worked in bipartisan fashion to provide direct relief to former Stone Academy students. We have a nursing shortage, and it is essential that we work across multiple branches of government to continue to help these students get their careers back on track and make them whole.”