News + Insights from the Legal Team at Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein

Superior Court Denies Harvard’s Motion to Dismiss Edelman Breach of Contract Suit

On March 18, 2024, a Superior Court judge denied Harvard’s motion to dismiss a case brought by ZDB attorneys David Russcol and Harvey Silverglate and co-counsel Ruth O’Meara-Costello. In the suit, Plaintiff Benjamin Edelman, a former tenure-track faculty member at Harvard Business School, alleges that Harvard mishandled an inquiry into Prof. Edelman’s conduct and he was not granted tenure as a result. Among other things, Prof. Edelman alleges that Harvard initiated a Faculty Review Board process when it was not needed, did not provide him with evidence that was used against him, and employed a flawed process that ultimately damaged his reputation. ZDB brought claims of breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and promissory estoppel based on Harvard’s failure to follow its established procedures, biased practices, and conflicts of interest by the Faculty Review Board.

The Superior Court rejected all of Harvard’s arguments to dismiss Prof. Edelman’s claims. The judge found that, based on the allegations in the complaint, Prof. Edelman could reasonably have expected to receive all of the evidence gathered in Harvard’s review but did not, and that Harvard may have violated its policies by expanding the scope of its review and not giving him a fair opportunity to respond to new areas of inquiry. The Court determined that Prof. Edelman’s claims that Harvard acted in bad faith by allowing conflicts of interest, “misrepresenting his outside work, and falsely suggesting that he had failed to make necessary disclosures” could not be resolved without an opportunity to seek relevant evidence in the discovery process. And the judge held that Prof. Edelman stated a plausible claim that he stayed at Harvard in reliance on Harvard’s promises of fair consideration of his tenure application and compliance with its policies and procedures. Because Harvard’s motion to dismiss was denied in its entirety, the case will now proceed to discovery.

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