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College wants former students' lawsuit dismissed

JACKSON — For-profit Virginia College has asked a Hinds County judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 14 people who allege they participated in a pilot program at the college’s Jackson campus to become licensed practical nurses only to find out the program was never accredited by the state.

The Clarion-Ledger reports the Birmingham, Ala.-based company argues in court documents that the students had signed an agreement allowing a third party to settle disputes when they enrolled in the program. It wants a judge to throw out their lawsuit and send the case to arbitration.

“The claims fall within the arbitration clause,” Robert Gibbs, an attorney for Virginia College, argued this past week before Circuit Judge Jeff Weill. “It allows recovery for compensatory damage. It allows for the plaintiff to be made completely whole.”

Weill has not yet ruled on the motion.

Warren Martin and his brother, Kenya Martin, attorneys for the students, said they believe arbitration will be geared toward helping Virginia College. The arbitration agreements were voided by Virginia College’s fraudulent acts, they said.

The former students allege that Virginia College officials represented to them that upon graduation they would be eligible to take the exam to practice as a LPN. The state mandates only a graduate from an accredited institution can take the exam.

“Is it (the arbitration agreement) valid? No, it isn’t valid,” Kenya Martin told Weill. “The defendants violated Mississippi law to get arbitration agreement.”

The students signed the arbitration agreements, Kenya Martin said, because they didn’t think they would be defrauded.

“There are layers of fraud and lies in this case,” Warren Martin said.

The lawsuit claims the pilot program was granted preliminary accreditation in 2009, and that allowed students to be admitted. The lawsuit said the school learned while the program was under way that it had not been accredited and didn’t tell the students.

Virginia College officials said the school is appealing the state’s decision. If accreditation is granted, they said the students could take the exam.

The lawsuit seeks $14 million in damages.

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