Student sues uni for $14m over failed subjects
A QUEENSLAND university student wants a whopping $14 million in compensation after he flunked key subjects to qualify for a law degree, claiming he was discriminated against for having autism.
Dylan Prider, a dual Australian-US citizen living in ritzy Newport Beach, south of LA in Orange County, has asked the Federal Court to force Bond University to erase failed subjects from his record and re-enrol him in a Commerce-Law degree.
If he can't be reinstated, the 20-year-old wants the court to order he be paid $13.6m in damages for loss of income, based on claims he could earn $US189,150 a year in Anaheim, California once qualified as a lawyer.
It is understood to be one of the largest lawsuits lodged against an Australian university over failed grades.
Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts said there was a marked increase in the number of people suing universities over failed courses.
Speaking exclusively to The Courier-Mail from the US, Mr Prider said he chose to study law in Australia to follow in the footsteps of his lawyer father, because it's "easier to get into" university in Australia than in the US.
"It certainly hurts my future by not being able to continue in the course," Mr Prider said.
He said his life was on hold until the court case is over - no other university will take him because his grade point average at Bond was so low.
"Law opens up a lot of opportunities in life," he said. "I might not end up becoming a lawyer, I don't know for certain yet."
Mr Prider's case is against the university, its staff and its chancellor, former Federal Court judge Annabelle Bennett. He alleges they discriminated against him because of his autism and ADHD, then "retaliated" against him for complaining to the Australian Human Rights Commission by blocking his enrolment in the law degree.
The university denies all the allegations.
Mr Prider failed one subject in his pre-university course, a diploma of legal studies, and two subjects of the Bachelor of Commerce in 2018, causing the uni to deny him entry to a combined Commerce-Law degree in 2019, court documents state. He argues the uni failed to fulfil its promise to him that he would be "pre-accepted" into the law degree by completing the diploma course.
Mr Prider, who is represented by his father Ian, a commercial lawyer in Sydney and the US, claims in court documents he felt "offended, intimidated and distressed" when a uni staffer put him on academic warning for failing subjects in 2018.
He argues the uni denied him special treatment he needed, such as 20 minutes extra time per hour for exams, "extra time" for assignments, preferential seating and to sit his exams in a separate room.
He has asked the court to force the uni to cater for disabled students through issuing a "mandatory injunction".
He also argues the uni promised him it would provide "reasonable adjustments" to help him complete his studies.
Mr Prider tried to sue the uni for breach of contract in the Supreme Court, but the case was transferred to the Federal Court last month.
During the Supreme Court hearing, Bond University argued the issue of whether universities can be forced to provide "adjustments" for disabled students is a "highly contentious and undecided legal issue" with "important significance to the university and the higher education sector more widely".
Bond states in its defence, filed in the Supreme Court, that Mr Prider's failure of three subjects "indicates a high likelihood (he) does not have the academic preparation necessary to allow him to complete an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) in the usual number of semesters of study, as a real possibility or at all".
A Bond spokeswoman told The Courier-Mail it was "regrettable" a student had chosen to sue over "grades and academic performance".
"Our standards, which are applied equitably, are not negotiable," she said. "We welcome the opportunity to defend our standards against the claims."
The uni has not filed a defence in Federal Court, and the case is due back in court on September 19.
A string of lawsuits have been filed against unis in Queensland, including a case in which an Indian student is suing James Cook University for $3.1 million over loss of "sex drive" and career because he failed his admission.