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Vol. 13 - Issue 2
July 1, 2024


Lawyer Takes CLE But Gets No Credits: Sues For False Imprisonment




Fargo, North Dakota attorney Rusty Daniels’ compliance deadline for his annual continuing legal education requirement was just hours away.  He was three credits short.  But, as a life-long last-minute-doer, he wasn’t concerned. 

Rusty, a personal injury attorney, went to CLEasy, an on-line educational provider, and signed up for a three-credit webinar: “The Latest Developments in Luxembourg Family Law and Comparative Analysis with Brunei Law.”  The provider promised that its courses were cutting-edge, contained the latest need-to know information and its faculty were leaders in their field. 

In addition, CLEasy explained that the all-important mid-program announcement of the CLE codes would be preceded by the sound of an airhorn and strobe lights flashing on the screen.
Rusty settled into his home office, poured a glass of bourbon, teed up an NBA game on a computer and hit play on the CLE program on another.  Three hours later, Rusty had his certificate of attendance in hand and off it went to the North Dakota CLE board.  Rusty promised himself that next year he’d take CLEasy’s 2-credit course on real estate closings on Saturn.

But the lawyer from Fargo would be in touch with CLEasy much sooner.  Thirty days later, Rusty received a letter from the North Dakota CLE board advising him that he was non-complaint for his annual continuing legal education requirement.  He was three credits short.  By North Dakota Supreme Court rule, Rusty was obligated, within 30 days, to pay a $100 late fee and complete five CLE credits -- the three outstanding and two penalty credits.

Impossible, Rusty thought, and he contacted the CLE board to get things straightened out.  But there would be no straightening out.  Rusty learned that “The Latest Developments in Luxembourg Family Law and Comparative Analysis with Brunei Law” had not been approved for credit in North Dakota.

Upon further looking-into-it, it turned out that a filing snafu had prevented the course from being approved for credits for North Dakota.  CLEasy was apologetic and offered Rusty a free three-credit course that had been approved by the Peace Garden State.

[Raise your hand if you knew that that was North Dakota’s nickname.  Are there any N.D. Coverage Opinions subscribers out there?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear from you.  I’ll send a copy of Insurance Key Issues to the first North Dakota subscriber [as if there could be two] to send a picture of themselves with their N.D. license plate that says Peace Garden State.]

Back to our story.  Rusty was unimpressed with CLEasy’s offer.  That he was entitled to a free course was obvious.  But he also wanted a refund for “The Latest Developments in Luxembourg Family Law and Comparative Analysis with Brunei Law,” CLEasy to pay the $100 late fee and compensatory damages.

CLEasy balked, but ultimately agreed to also provide a refund for the course and to pay the $100 fee.  But it put its foot down, hard, at compensatory damages, especially since Rusty demanded $25,000 for false imprisonment.

Besides that number being laughable, CLEasy claimed that, as a matter of law, such damages are not recoverable for breach of contract, not to mention that it is impossible to be falsely imprisoned when you are alone in your home office and free to leave.

Rusty filed suit.  The court in Rusty Daniels v. CLEasy LLC, No. 23-2356 (N.D. Dist. Ct. (Cass County) May 19, 2024) agreed and awarded him $37,500, an amount it called “eminently reasonable.”  As the judge put it: “As jurists, we are also required to comply with the state’s annual continuing legal education requirement.  This court would have felt the same way as plaintiff after viewing a three-credit course that was not approved for CLE credits.”  The court added a footnote, thanking Plaintiff for alerting it that CLEasy’s programs sound an airhorn and flash strobe lights on the screen before the mid-program announcements of CLE codes.  The case is now before the North Dakota Supreme Court.   
That’s my time. I’m Randy Spencer.

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