A settlement conference to resolve a former nursing anesthesia student’s lawsuit against Webster University is scheduled for Sept. 4, 2013.
Former Webster student Tiffany Ann Neustaedter sued the university in March 2012 for a total of $100,000 on four counts and $2 million in punitive damages. The counts are breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing.
Along with the university, Neustaedter sued three members of the College of Arts and Sciences: Dean David Carl Wilson, Nurse Anesthesia Program Director Jill Stulce and former nurse anesthesia professor Gary Clark. Clark retired at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, according to a post on Webster Today, the university’s blog. His retirement was announced in December 2011 on the site.
The university dismissed Neustaedter from the nurse anesthesia program in 2011 when she was nine weeks and one-credit hour from completion. She started the program in 2008. At the time, she had been a registered nurse for 14 years.
Neustaeder’s lawsuit claims a personal relationship between her and Garrett Bergfeld, a biological sciences professor, led to her dismissal. Their relationship began in summer 2009.
Represented by Webster’s legal team, Wilson, Stulce and Clark denied most of Neustaedter’s allegations in response to her suit.
In the suit, Neustaedter said it was the defendant’s fiduciary and legal duty “to provide competent instruction and supervision, and to protect her from unfair, arbitrary, discriminatory or retaliatory enforcement of school policies.”
According to West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, 2nd Edition, a fiduciary relationship is one in which “one person has an obligation to act for another’s benefit.”
West’s Encyclopedia also stated, “A fiduciary relationship extends to every possible case in which one side places confidence in the other and such confidence is accepted; this causes dependence by the one individual and influence by the other.”
The university denied it has a fiduciary duty to Neustaedter or any student. The university said it is legally obligated to protect students in all curricula. It denied that Neustaedter received any negative treatment. The response was filed on May 21, 2012.
The suit alleged Neustaedter’s damages result from “delayed income, lost tuition, expenses, attorneys’ fees to attempt to remedy the defendants’ breaches of contract, damage to reputation, mental anguish and emotional harms.”
In response to the alleged losses and damages to Neustaedter, Webster asserted these amounts are speculative. No contract existed which entitled Neustaedter to payment, Webster said. The university also said there was no guarantee when Neustaedter enrolled that she would complete the program.
Attorneys for Neustaedter and Webster entered a joint motion for a protective order, which Circuit Judge Kristine Kerr granted. The protective order forbids the disclosure of documents that pertain to the university and individuals involved in the case. The suit outlined these documents and topics. The order was filed on Aug. 6, 2012.
To read the full text of the suit, click here.