Dismissal Showdown Looms in Trump U. Case

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — The San Diego federal judge who has been publicly chastised by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will hear arguments Friday for and against dismissing one of the class action cases against the now-defunct Trump University.
     U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel will decide whether the newer of two San Diego class actions against Trump and his shuttered real estate school should be dismissed on a summary judgment motion.
     In Cohen v. Trump, lead plaintiff Art Cohen claims the billionaire presidential candidate knew Trump University was defrauding customers but chose to run it anyway. The case claims Trump violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was initially created to crack-down on the mafia and organized crime. The pursuit of civil RICO claims, which triples damages and attorney’s fees, distinguishes Cohen from the other San Diego class action, Low v. Trump University.
     Both cases hinge on similar fraud claims related the use of the word “university,” which the students claim led them to believe Trump University was accredited. Some students paid as much as $35,000 for the real estate seminar classes. The former students also claim Trump University misrepresented that mentors were “hand-selected” by Trump himself, and that the mentors did not provide the hands-on experience students paid thousands for.
     In order to prove the RICO claim, Cohen must meet a much higher burden of proof showing that Trump knew the operation was fraudulent and proceeded with it anyway.
     In the initial filing for summary judgment, Trump’s attorney Daniel Petrocelli called the RICO case “an overreach from inception.”
     “It stretches civil RICO beyond the breaking point and would effectively federalize consumer advertising fraud claims, and subject officers, directors and employees of every Fortune 500 company to unwarranted personal liability.”
     Trump’s lack of personal involvement in Trump University, which was highly publicized following the release of his deposition transcripts, means he could not have knowingly participated in or conducted a fraudulent operation, the defense claims.
     The defense also chalked up the use of the word university as “sales puffery” found in advertising everywhere.
     Curiel will also hear arguments Friday on a motion to decertify the class in Low v. Trump University, with Trump arguing that each of the defendants had individual experiences and he is constitutionally entitled to have damages assessed on an individual basis.
     Trump cited changing circumstances in the case — including Curiel’s decision to allow former lead plaintiff Tarla Makaeff to opt out of representing the class — and said the recent switch-ups have positioned the case in “unchartered waters.”
     Low and the other plaintiffs claim Trump missed the cut-off date to file the motion to decertify, but Trump asserts the cut-off date doesn’t apply since the motion was filed in response to recent changes in the case.
     Trump also claims the class members cannot prove Trump University utilized the same marketing tactics across the board, including that Trump University instructors were “handpicked” by Trump or that the real estate school was referred to as “accredited.”
     “They cannot reconcile the disparate issues in their claims with the requirements for maintaining the case as a class action. Their failure to formulate a viable trial plan exemplifies some of the many issues which now compel decertification,” the filing states.
     The hearing on both matters is set for 1:30 p.m on Friday.

%d bloggers like this: