Law Student Sues Massachusetts School of Law After Receiving D Grade

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2014

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Martin Odemena, a former law student at the Massachusetts School of Law, is suing the school under consumer protection theories after receiving a D grade in contracts class. Odemena is claiming that the D and resulting suspension has made it impossible for him to transfer to another law school, thus thwarting his career plans. He is seeking in excess of $100,000.00 in damages.

GradeThe National Law Journal did some investigating and found that the dispute stems from an alleged discrepancy in Prof. Joseph Devlin’s grading policies. Apparently, the class syllabus stated that quiz results were not counted toward a final grade in the class—except they were, which Devlin allegedly stated in his first lecture of the year. An investigation by the school’s acting general counsel, Prof. Peter Malaguti, ultimately determined that Devlin had informed the class that quiz results would count. Malaguti relied upon another student’s class notes to corroborate Devlin’s assertion that he informed the class that quizzes counted.

The Massachusetts School of Law, located in Andover, MA, is a non-traditional law school. Not accredited by the American Bar Association, the school’s mission is “to provide a high quality, practical and affordable legal education” to its students. References to a practical model similar to that used by medical schools permeate the school’s website. And much like med students often think they have every disease under the sun, it seems that at least one student at Massachusetts School of Law thinks the answer to every dispute is a lawsuit.

Grounds for a Lawsuit?

Odemena may very well have a legitimate gripe about Devlin’s lack of grading policy clarity. If the syllabus says one thing and the professor tells students something else in class, I can see how confusion may ensue. But grounds for a lawsuit? It seems more like fodder for an ombudsman. In a school that proudly proclaims to have an average class size of 12 students, one would think that either 1) a simple raise of the hand and request for clarification, or 2) normal talk amongst students would have cleared up any misunderstandings. Apparently not.

It will be interesting to see how—or even if—Odemena’s case progresses. Malaguti told the National Law Journal that he would be pursuing dismissal of the suit, and considering the uphill battle Odemena is facing, it is hard to believe Malaguti won’t be successful. Even if the suit is allowed to progress, Odemena will have a difficult time convincing a jury that he has suffered financial damage beyond lost tuition dollars. Even if his attorney can somehow convince a jury that his client would have graduated and passed the bar exam, it will be an uphill battle proving that Odemena was prevented from earning a living in a market that has an exponentially more candidates than open positions.

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