Steinberg V the Chicago Medical School

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Steinberg v The Chicago Medical School
Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Third Division.

Mejda, P.J., and McGloon, J

DEMPSEY, Justice:
In December 1973 the plaintiff, Robert Steinberg, applied for admission to the defendant, the Chicago Medical School, as a first-year student for the academic year 1974--75 and paid an application fee of $15. The Chicago Medical School is a private, not-for-profit educational institution, incorporated in the State of Illinois. His application for admission was rejected and Steinberg filed a class action against the school, claiming that it had failed to evaluate his application and those of other applicants according to the academic entrance criteria printed in the school's bulletin. Specifically, his complaint alleged that the school's decision to accept or reject a particular applicant for the first-year class was primarily based on such nonacademic considerations as the *806 prospective student's familial relationship to members of the school's faculty and to members of its board of trustees, and the ability of the applicant or his family to pledge or make payment of large sums of money to the school. The complaint further alleged that by using such unpublished criteria to evaluate applicants the school had breached the contract, which Steinberg contended was created when the school accepted his application fee. In his prayer for relief Steinberg sought an injunction against the school prohibiting the continuation of such admission practices, and an accounting of all application fees, donations, contributions and other sums of money collected by the school from its applicants during a ten-year period prior to the filing of his suit. He did not ask the court to direct the school to admit him, to review his application or to return his fee. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the complaint failed to state a cause of action because no contract came into existence during its transaction with Steinberg inasmuch as the school's informational publication did not constitute a valid offer. The trial court sustained the motion to dismiss and Steinberg appeals from this order. The 1974--75 bulletin of the school, which was distributed to prospective students, represented that the following criteria would be used by the school in determining whether applicants would be accepted as first-year medical students: 'Students are selected on the basis of scholarship, character, and motivation without regard to race, creed, or sex. The student's potential for the study and practice of medicine will be evaluated on the basis of academic achievement, Medical College Admission Test results, personal appraisals by a pre-professional advisory committee or individual instructors, and the personal interview, if requested by the Committee on Admissions.' In his four-count complaint Steinberg alleged, in addition to his claim that the school breached its contract (Count I), that the school's practice of using selection standards which were not disclosed in the school's informational brochure, constituted a violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (Ill.Rev.Stat., **589 1973, ch. 121 1/2, par. 261, et seq.) and of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (Ill.Rev.Stat., 1973, ch. 121 1/2, par. 311, et seq.) (Count II); fraud (Count III), and unjust enrichment (Count IV). Since we are in accord with the trial court's decision that the complaint did not state a cause of action under Counts II, III and IV, we shall limit our discussion to Count I.

A contract is an agreement between competent parties, based upon a consideration sufficient in law, to do or not do a particular thing. It is a promise or a set of promises for the breach of which the law gives a *807 remedy, or the performance of which the law in some way recognizes as a duty. Rynearson v. Odin-Svenson Development Corp. (1969), 108 Ill.App.2d 125, 246 N.E.2d 823. A contract's essential...
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