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Nursing student loses appeal of dismissal from Purdue

March 19, 2013

A nursing student at Purdue University’s Fort Wayne campus was unable to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday that the university and officials violated her due process rights and breached a contract with her when they dismissed her from the program due to behavioral difficulties.

Judy Chang enrolled in the nursing program in 2007, but had several incidents and confrontations with students that led to meetings with program leaders. An incident in October 2008 with student Julie Webb led to dismissal of Chang from the program. Chang and Webb argued about a group project and Webb, who was pregnant at the time, believed Chang was going to push her down the stairs. Webb also contacted police about the incident.

Chang was charged with unprofessional conduct pursuant to the Department of Nursing Professional Misconduct policy. A committee of the Department of Nursing decided she should be dismissed; Chang appealed up to the IPFW chancellor, who also affirmed the dismissal. Chang filed her lawsuit against the school and officials in October 2009. She alleged her due process rights were violated under the 14th Amendment and the Indiana Constitution, and that the school officials’ acts breached a contract she had with the school. She also alleged tortious interference with contract.

The breach of contract claims were the only ones to survive summary judgment motions and go before a jury. The jury ruled in favor of the school.

The Court of Appeals concluded that Chang failed to designate any evidence that the nursing department’s decision to dismiss her was arbitrary, capricious or made in bad faith, so she was entitled to summary judgment on the breach of contract claims. The judges also found the evidence supported the jury verdict against her regarding those claims.

They affirmed summary judgment for the trustees and other school officials on Chang’s claims for due process violations and tortious interference. Regarding the tortious interference claims, Chang failed to comply with the notice provisions of the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

The case is Judy Chang v. Purdue University, The Trustees of Purdue University; Dr. France A. Cordova, President of Purdue University (in her official capacity); et al.,
02A03-1206-PL-272.

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