Note to universities in Philadelphia: This winter, be sure to salt and shovel the sidewalks. For your own good.

Billy Penn pored through files of lawsuits in which Philadelphia universities are doing the suing or getting sued and came back with a tally of lawsuits against the different schools from the past three years, typical reasons why universities get sued and some extra motivation for why you should pay your tuition.

The lawsuit count

From 2012 through 2014, here are the total number of times Philly schools have been sued. Villanova is not included because jurisdiction for its lawsuits is not in Philadelphia.

  • Temple: 775
  • Penn: 248
  • Drexel: 119
  • La Salle: 18
  • St. Joseph’s: 8
  • University of the Arts: 8
  • Philadelphia University: 6
  • University of the Sciences: 1

Temple paces the group easily. The great majority of the court action against Temple deals with routine construction agreements. So it’s not like people just hate Temple and are suing it left and right. It has to do with the fact that Temple is expanding. Penn, Temple and Drexel also stand out from the rest of the universities because of their affiliated medical centers. Almost anytime somebody sues for malpractice the university gets lumped in as a defendant.


Outside of medical malpractice and construction-related suits, the next most-common lawsuit dealt with negligence and injury. This is true for every university, including University of the Sciences. The lone lawsuit against it from 2012 through 2014, according to court data, was from a person invited to campus who slip and fell on a snowy and/or icy sidewalk in February 2010.

Not all of the falls are related to bad weather. Judging by these lawsuits, colleges seem to produce as many hazards as they do degrees.

At Penn, somebody tripped over a rumpled piece of carpet at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and sued.

At University of the Arts, somebody tripped on a nail protruding from the floor of a dormitory and sued.

At Philadelphia University, somebody tripped on a hole on the campus lawn that was covered by leaves…and sued.

Yes, these cases sound funny, but the plaintiffs in all the cases allege serious injuries and surgeries that arose from the accidents. Most of the cases were settled but not for a year or two after the cases had been filed. That University of the Sciences snow/ice case is ongoing and has a court date set for early next year.

Alleged failure to provide “viable education” at La Salle

Some of the lawsuits are a little juicier. One nursing student at La Salle accused mistreatment from a teacher after filing a negative review about her that was supposed to be confidential. The lawsuit laid out a series of complications and alleged discrimination that followed the incident and led to failing grades and her being released from the nursing program. A judge found in favor of La Salle, but the former nursing student is appealing, according to court documents.

Why universities sue students

At least a handful of times, the above universities sued other parties and for Drexel it was dozens of times. Why? Mainly because students aren’t paying tuition.

Several court files showed universities suing undergraduate students who owed thousands of dollars in tuition. So if you’re not paying that tuition bill, just remember, you might get sued.  

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...