SAN DIEGO (CN) – Classes in two class action lawsuits accusing Donald Trump of defrauding students through his now-defunct Trump University can be notified together, a federal judge ruled this week.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s rulings were a victory for the plaintiffs, who suffered a setback a week ago when Curiel decertified a portion of one of the classes.
Tarla Makaeff leads one class , which claims Trump misrepresented Trump University as a real university, though it was just a scheme to bilk people for millions.
That class, certified in February 2014, included all people who purchased a Trump University three-day live workshop or program in California, New York and Florida and have not received a full refund.
The main class was divided into five subclasses based on their age and where they purchased the programs.
Trump claimed that restitution requiring full refunds was not appropriate because the damages must include a deduction for the value the students received from their Trump University courses.
Makaeff, in turn, argued that the students deserved a full refund because they “got none of what they paid for: not Trump, not his ‘secrets,’ not his ‘hand-picked’ professors, not a yearlong mentorship with a Trump ‘certified’ expert, and certainly not anything approaching a university.'”
Only a full refund will return the students “to the position they were in before being ensnared in defendants’ scam,” Makaeff said.
On Sept. 18, Curiel allowed the class to proceed on the liability claim, but decertified the subclasses on the issue of damages after finding that Trump should be given the chance at trial to support his argument that some of the damages should be offset by the value gained by the students.
In the related class action led by Art Cohen , the class is certified as anyone who purchased live events from Trump University throughout the United States since Jan. 1, 2007.
On Monday, Curiel ruled that the classes can send serve a single class notice to all putative class members in both cases.
The judge disagreed with Trump’s argument that a joint notice would confuse potential class members and is inappropriate given that Trump University is named as a defendant only in the Makaeff action.
“Plaintiffs’ proposed joint notice repeatedly specifies which individuals are members of each class. Moreover, plaintiffs’ proposed joint notice would largely be identical if divided into separate notices for each case, giving rise to the possibility that the Makaeff class members might ignore or be confused by one or other of the notices,” Curiel ruled Monday in the Cohen case.
Joint notice would give class members in both cases the opportunity “to participate in the litigation, op -out of the litigation, to monitor the performance of class representatives and class counsel, and to ensure that predictions of adequate representation are fulfilled. It does this with reduced administrative burdens and costs that would be imposed upon plaintiffs,” Curiel ruled.
Trump attorney Jill Martin called Curiel’s ruling “a major blow to the plaintiffs’ case.”
“By decertifying as to damages, Donald J. Trump and Trump University will be able to challenge each former student’s right to recover any damages, making their chances of ultimately prevailing far more difficult,” Martin said. “The court also rejected a key allegation at the heart of plaintiffs’ case by finding that Trump University calling itself a ‘university’ was not illegal in California and Florida (two states at issue in the case).
“Furthermore, Judge Curiel’s finding that ‘a number of class members have testified to being satisfied with their TU investment and having obtained some value from their education’ validates the fact that Trump University provided a legitimate and valuable real estate education,” she continued. “This finding, coupled with the fact that 98 percent of all Trump University students rated the program “excellent” and Trump University received an “A” rating from the BBB, will ultimately doom plaintiffs’ claims.”
Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
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