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Florez v. Ginsberg

Court of Appeals of Kansas

August 23, 2019

Pantaleon Florez III, Appellant,
v.
Rick Ginsberg, Sally Roberts, Paul Markham, and University of Kansas, Appellees.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. Whether a district court erred by granting a motion to dismiss is a question of law subject to unlimited review. The appellate court will view the well-pleaded facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and assume as true those facts and any inferences reasonably drawn from them. If those facts and inferences state any claim upon which relief can be granted, then dismissal is improper.

         2. Kansas does not recognize a cause of action in tort for educational malpractice.

         3. Courts must be careful not to reject all claims that arise out of a school environment under the umbrella of educational malpractice. Instead, the specific facts of each case must be considered in light of the relevant policy concerns that drive the rejection of educational malpractice actions.

         4. To state a claim for negligent misrepresentation, a plaintiff must allege that (1) defendant failed to exercise reasonable care in obtaining or communicating false information, (2) plaintiff relied on the information that defendant supplied for their benefit and guidance, and (3) plaintiff suffered damages in a transaction that defendant intended to influence.

         5. An appellate court has unlimited review over the interpretation and application of a statute of limitations under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

         6. A Kansas Consumer Protection Act claim becomes actionable, triggering the limitations period, when the consumer becomes aggrieved. A consumer becomes aggrieved when the consumer suffers legal harm, even if he or she fails to discover or recognize the harm.

         7. An appellate court reviews the district court's decision to deny a motion to alter or amend the judgment using an abuse of discretion standard.

          Appeal from Douglas District Court; Barbara Kay Huff, judge.

          Pantaleon Florez Jr., of Topeka, for appellant.

          Eric J. Aufdengarten and Michael C. Leitch, Office of the General Counsel, University of Kansas, for appellees.

          Before Hill, P.J., Standridge, J., and Neil B. Foth, District Judge, assigned.

          STANDRIDGE, J.

         On May 23, 2016, Pantaleon Florez III filed a lawsuit against the University of Kansas (KU); Dr. Rick Ginsberg, Dean of the KU School of Education; Dr. Sally Roberts, Associate Dean of the KU School of Education; and Dr. Paul Markham, Associate Professor within the KU School of Education (Defendants). In the lawsuit, Florez alleged negligence and a violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act (KCPA) based on information posted to the KU School of Education website that misrepresented the requirements necessary to obtain an initial teaching license in Kansas. The district court granted a motion to dismiss in favor of Defendants based on the court's finding that Florez' negligence claim was actually a claim for educational malpractice, which is not an actionable theory in Kansas, and its finding that the KCPA claim was barred by the statute of limitations. Florez filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, but the district court denied his motion. On appeal, Florez argues the district court erred in dismissing his claims. We agree. Accordingly, and for the reasons stated below, we reverse the district court's order dismissing the petition and remand with directions for the district court to reinstate the action and otherwise proceed in a manner consistent with this decision.

         Facts

         The following facts are taken from the petition filed by Florez and are assumed to be true for purposes of reviewing the district court's ruling on Defendants' motion to dismiss. See Cohen v. Battaglia, 296 Kan. 542, 545-46, 293 P.3d 752 (2013) (district court's decision on motion to dismiss is subject to unlimited review and appellate court must accept facts alleged by plaintiff as true).

         In 2012, Florez applied for and was accepted into the KU School of Education to pursue a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an endorsement in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Florez successfully completed the coursework and received his Master's degree in May 2014.

         From the date Florez submitted his application in 2012 through the date Florez received his Master's degree in 2014, KU represented on its official School of Education website that the Curriculum and Instruction "[c]oursework fulfills the requirement for the degree and a Kansas initial teaching license." During the relevant time period, each of the Defendants knew that the representations made on the website were false because each of the Defendants knew that a degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the KU School of Education did not actually meet the qualifications necessary to obtain an initial teaching license in Kansas.

         On May 21, 2014, Florez met with his advisor, Professor Markham. During this meeting, Florez learned for the first time that, contrary to the representations on the website, successful completion of the coursework and a degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the KU School of Education failed to meet the qualifications necessary to obtain an initial teaching license in Kansas. Professor Markham told Florez that the Curriculum and Instruction coursework was not an initial licensure program. In response to Florez' claim that the website stated otherwise, Professor Markham disagreed.

         Later that day, Florez e-mailed Dean Ginsberg about the issue. Ginsburg confirmed that his degree failed to meet the qualifications necessary to obtain an initial teaching license in Kansas and agreed with Professor Markham's opinion that the official website did not represent that successful completion of the Curriculum ...


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