Trump Can’t Decertify Class in Trump U Case

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — Donald Trump learned Tuesday that he won’t be able to stop a post-election class-action trial against his defunct real estate school Trump University, when a federal judge denied his request to decertify the class.
     U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel denied Trump’s motion for leave to file a renewed motion for decertification, as well as the plaintiffs of Low v. Trump University’s request to modify the scheduling order so they could file a motion to clarify or amend the court’s class-certification orders. Curiel also ruled on a number of motions to exclude expert testimony.
     The order was signed by Curiel on Monday but was not made publicly available until Tuesday morning.
     Trump moved to decertify the Low class this spring when Curiel allowed former lead plaintiff Tarla Makaeff to withdraw from the class, leaving Sonny Low to take over the post. Trump claimed Makaeff’s withdrawal and other motions and changes sought by the plaintiffs, including their motion to clarify the scope of a previously agreed upon class-certification order, prejudiced him.
     He recently filed a motion asking Curiel to allow him to call additional Trump University students, other than the class representatives, as witnesses, as Trump contends the former students will disprove the alleged misrepresentations at the center of the case.
     Low and the other plaintiffs sued Trump in 2010 over claims they were tricked into paying upwards of $30,000 based on the promise they would learn insider real-estate secrets from instructors and mentors “handpicked” by Trump himself. They also claim the “university” title led them to believe Trump University was a legitimate, accredited business school and not the “infomercial-like” instruction they received.
     In his order, Curiel wrote that Trump’s arguments for decertification — including his assertion the plaintiffs were not uniformly exposed to the alleged misrepresentations and individual issues of reliance, causation and materiality — were not persuasive.
     As to the issue of exposure to the alleged misrepresentations of the “handpicked” instructors and the “accredited university,” and individual students’ reliance on these claims in choosing to attend Trump University, Curiel said those issues were already argued and decided when he made his original class-certification order.
     In asking for a renewed motion for decertification, Trump contended when they deposed Low a second time following the withdrawal of Makaeff as lead plaintiff, Low revealed he did not actually rely on the alleged misrepresentations as to the “handpicked” and “university” claims.
     But Curiel called Trump’s argument a “selective interpretation of Low’s new testimony,” noting that while Low may have “not even considered” whether Trump University was accredited, he did testify to believing Trump “took all the steps necessary to set up a proper institution that he could call a university.”
     “Low’s testimony demonstrates that, even if Low was unfamiliar with the technical term ‘accredited,’ Low understood TU to have undergone the same ‘processes … to be called a legitimate university’ involving ‘standards and qualifications’ as other accredited universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California,” Curiel wrote. “Moreover, Low’s testimony demonstrates that this understanding was an important factor to Low in purchasing in TU programs.”
     Curiel also found while Low may not have believed the Trump University instructors spoke directly to Trump, he did believe they were “handpicked” by Trump, as was advertised.
     “Low both seems to have a commonsense understanding of what the term ‘handpicked’ means, and to have relied upon defendants’ representation that defendant Trump ‘handpicked’ TU instructors in deciding to purchase TU programs,” the order states.
     As to the plaintiffs’ motion to clarify or amend the scope of the “university” claim certified in 2014, Curiel found their request “untimely” and noted the plaintiffs were “not explicit on how exactly they wish the class certification order to be clarified.”
     The core representations certified by the court which will be considered during the trial include: that Trump University was an accredited university; students would be taught by real estate experts, professors and mentors hand-selected by Trump; and students would receive one year of expert support and mentoring.
     The Low case is scheduled to begin trial on Nov. 28.

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