Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Indiana Supreme Court upholds ban on class action suits over higher education pandemic policies

Derek Molter is a White man with dark hair and a beard, wearing black judicial robes.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Justice Derek Molter participates in a traveling oral argument of Keller J. Mellowitz v. Ball State University, et al. on Apr. 11, 2023 at the University of Indianapolis.

A state law banning class action lawsuits against Indiana colleges and universities over their COVID-19 policies is constitutional, according to a new ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court.

The decision issued Wednesday comes from a student’s lawsuit against Ball State.

Keller Mellowitz sued Ball State, seeking a refund after in-person classes were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. And he sued on behalf of himself and other students — a class action.

But the Indiana legislature passed a law, HEA 1002-2021, banning class actions against higher education institutions related to their handling of COVID-19. Mellowitz argued that law was unconstitutional because it interfered with court procedures, which should be the sole purview of the judiciary.

READ MORE: Indiana Supreme Court considers striking down law shielding higher ed from COVID-19 class-actions

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including our project Civically, Indiana.

The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously disagreed. Justice Derek Molter wrote that the 2021 law is narrow enough — only applying to COVID claims against higher education in a limited period of time. Molter’s opinion also said that because of its narrow scope, the law clearly pursues a public policy objective, which is the purview of the legislature.

Mellowitz and other students can still sue; they just have to do so individually.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.