SAN DIEGO (CN) – Donald Trump has opposed a woman’s request to withdraw as lead plaintiff in a six-year-long class action accusing him of defrauding students at Trump University.
Tarla Makaeff asked to withdraw as class representative and named plaintiff on Feb. 8, citing health problems, family loss and financial troubles in the years since she filed the class action on April 30, 2010.
“Trump was a celebrity when the case was filed, but no one could have anticipated that he would become a viable presidential candidate and a 24/7 media obsession as this case neared trial,” Makaeff said in her motion to withdraw from the federal class action.
“Subjecting herself to the intense media attention and likely barbs from Trump and his agents and followers simply would not be healthy for her,” she added.
A hearing on Makaeff’s motion to withdraw is scheduled for March 11.
When Makaeff sued Trump and Trump University in 2010, she said she had spent $60,000 for a classes and seminars she called little more than infomercials .
The class was certified in 2014 to include 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.
Makaeff says she has been “put through the wringer in this case,” from her “very public battle with Trump over his million-dollar counterclaim,” enduring stress, anxiety and fears of retaliation. She says she sat through four deposition sessions in 2012 and 2014 for more than 15½ hours.
Makaeff says that vitriol from Trump has affected her opportunities as a writer, and forced her to seek work in a new field.
Makaeff’s attorneys in December asked Trump’s attorneys to stipulate to her withdrawal on the same terms as former plaintiffs who left the class action, but Trump declined the proposal in January.
In his Feb. 26 opposition to her motion to withdraw, Trump says dismissing Makaeff and allowing her to revoke her commitment to testify at trial would cause “irremediable prejudice” to him and Trump University. He calls Makaeff the “critical witness in this case.”
His 28-page opposition, with redactions on six pages, says there is “no basis whatsoever to insulate her from trial.” Trump claims Makaeff gave his program “high praise,” leading her to sign up for the “Trump Gold Elite” three-day mentoring program which cost just under $35,000.
Trump claims Makaeff failed in her real estate endeavors through no fault of Trump University, but from Makaeff’s “own lack of effort.”
Trump also claims the class plaintiffs have “played a game of musical chairs,” as other plaintiffs have entered and left the class during the 6 years of litigation.
Trump says Makaeff’s allegations were the most robust of any plaintiff, and were used to achieve and maintain class certification and avoid dismissal.
Discovery has been closed for 14 months, and much of Trump’s is based on Makaeff’s testimony and promise to testify at trial, he says.
“Makaeff brought this lawsuit, allowed herself to become the public poster child for it, and should be required to finish what she started,” Trump says in his opposition memo.
Trump added that if Makaeff is no longer willing to perform as class representative or attend trial, the case should be dismissed and he should be awarded costs of litigation, including vacating the anti-SLAPP award of attorney’s fees and costs already granted to Makaeff in trump’s $1 million counterclaim against her.
Makaeff’s motion included a proposed order that would prevent Trump from making good on his threats to file suit against her individually or her attorneys, preventing Trump from using her withdrawal as the basis for a claim for attorneys’ fees, costs and other claims.
Makaeff requested to retain her right to share in any class recovery by way of a settlement or trial if the court grants her motion for dismissal.
The court denied Trump’s motion for summary judgment in November, putting the case on track to go to trial sometime this year.
Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli declined to comment, as did attorneys at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, who represent the class.
It’s not the only case against Trump University.
A state appeals court this week gave New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman more time to argue fraud claims against Trump University, stemming from an investigation of profit-seeking universities and trade schools in New York.
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