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ALEXSON v. HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

December 20, 2000

DARREN J. ALEXSON, PLAINTIFF,
V.
HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE; JOHN BUONO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS PRESIDENT OF HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE; STEPHEN M. CURTIS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE; WILLIE A. HAMMETT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS VICE-PRESIDENT FOR STUDENT SERVICES OF HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE; RICHARD E. BENNETT, III, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CONTINUING EDUCATION, HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE; KATHLEEN A. COGAN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HER CAPACITY AS CAMPUS COORDINATOR OF THE COLLEGE JUDICIAL SYSTEM OF HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE; ERIC CARLSON, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS ADJUNCT INSTRUCTOR OF HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE; AND THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF HUDSON VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurd, U.S. District Judge.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On November 23, 1998, plaintiff Darren J. Alexson ("Alexson" or "plaintiff") commenced the instant action against defendants asserting various causes of action including deceptive business practices under New York General Business Law Article 22-A (Sixth Cause of Action), and breach of contract (Seventh Cause of Action). On June 11, 1999, plaintiff stipulated to dismissal with prejudice of this action against defendant Mercantile Adjustment Bureau, Inc. ("MAB").*fn1

Plaintiff now moves for partial summary judgment on his sixth and seventh causes of action, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Defendants oppose. Oral argument was heard on September 5, 2000, in Albany, New York. Decision was reserved.

II. FACTS

This action arises out of the alleged expulsion of Alexson from defendant Adjunct Instructor Eric Carlson's ("Carlson") class at Hudson Valley Community College ("HVCC") during the summer of 1997. The following are the facts stated in the light most favorable to defendants, who are the non-moving parties.

Alexson was a matriculated part-time student in HVCC's nursing program. In the summer of 1997, he enrolled in a Developmental Psychology class taught by Carlson. He paid the $270 tuition for this class with a credit card. On May 21, 1997, Alexson engaged in a heated and vociferous classroom discussion with Carlson over the accuracy of Carlson's lecture. During this discussion, Alexson became disruptive and threatening. Because it was not the first time he had become disruptive in class, Carlson ordered Alexson to leave, and stated that he would call security and have him removed from the class if he did not leave voluntarily. After some protestation, Alexson left the class.

On May 23, 1997, defendant Richard E. Bennett, III ("Director Bennett"), who was the Assistant Director of Continuing Education at HVCC, contacted Alexson at home and informed him that he would not be permitted to return to Carlson's class until he met with the Vice President for Student Services, Willie E. Hammett ("V.P.Hammett"), to discuss the May 21 incident. Alexson indicated that he would not meet with V.P. Hammett. He never met with V.P. Hammett, and did not return to Carlson's class. He remained a matriculated student at HVCC. He took a course in Abnormal Psychology later in the summer of 1997, and took the Developmental Psychology class at HVCC in the Fall 1997 semester with a different instructor.

Alexson received a grade of "Z" for Carlson's Developmental Psychology course. The explanation section of his academic record indicated that a grade of "Z" meant that a student was "absent without withdrawal." He subsequently contacted his credit card company and notified it that he was disputing the $270 charge for the summer Developmental Psychology class. When HVCC learned that Alexson had reversed the $270 charge, it adjusted his account to reflect an open balance of $270. Following his repeated refusal to pay this balance, HVCC referred his account to a collection agency, former defendant MAB, and adjusted his account to reflect MAB's thirty percent collection fee (which in this case amounted to $81). In addition, HVCC adjusted its internal records of Alexson's account to indicate a $500 "MAB fee" — which was intended as a flag to notify HVCC employees that the account was overdue and referred for collection.

Alexson attempted to enroll in a HVCC class for the Spring 1998 semester in which he had previously reserved his admission. His reservation for this class was not honored, and he was not permitted to enroll in further classes at HVCC. In addition, HVCC refused to process his repeated requests for release of his transcript.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Summary Judgment

A moving party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The ultimate inquiry is whether a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party based on the evidence presented, the legitimate inferences that could be drawn from that evidence in favor of the nonmoving party, and the applicable burden of proof See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In determining a motion for summary judgment, all inferences to be drawn from the facts contained in the exhibits and depositions "must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." United States v. Diebold Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962); Hawkins v. Steingut, 829 F.2d 317, 319 (2d Cir. 1987). Nevertheless, "the litigant opposing ...


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