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Massage Today
November, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 11

New Challenge for COMTA

Connecticut-Based Massage School Files Lawsuit

By Editorial Staff

The Galen Institute in Wethersfield, Connecticut and its executive director, Jim Lattanzio, have filed suit against the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA).

The suit alleges misconduct and mishandling by COMTA during the Institute's quest for accreditation.

According to Mr. Lattanzio, the Galen Institute, which professes itself as "Connecticut's first approved medical massage therapy program," inquired about accreditation in August of 1999 and received a packet of information describing COMTA outlining the steps required to achieve accreditation. Mr. Lattanzio claims that, although he and the Galen Institute adhered strictly to the timeline of events and requirements stipulated in the accreditation package, COMTA mishandled the entire process (see excerpts from specific counts below) and delayed accreditation. The Institute withdrew its application for accreditation in May 2002.

In the lawsuit, filed on July 18, 2002 in the U.S. District Court (just as COMTA was receiving final accreditation approval from the U.S. Department of Education*), Mr. Lattanzio alleges that the accrediting agency committed acts of gross negligence throughout the accreditation process. Specifically, the lawsuit names seven counts of impropriety:

Count One: Negligence

"Negligence on part of Defendant COMTA was manifest in its failure to note that it was ill-equipped for the Accreditation of Medical Massage curricula and programs, and without divulging this fact to the Plaintiffs caused them to incur additional costs and expenses without benefit."

Count Two: Fraud in the Inducement

"Defendants COMTA and [COMTA Executive Director] Carole Ostendorf defrauded the Plaintiffs through inducing them into a contractual agreement in which the Defendants knew or reasonably should have known that the Defendants had no intention of honoring."

Count Three: Breach of Contract

"That breach of contract, caused by COMTA's own specious demands for allegedly 'necessary' revisions and amendments, effectively pushed back and extended by a full six months the accreditation completion process which COMTA had promised to complete expeditiously and by April 1, 2002."

Count Four: Fraudulent Misrepresentation

"During the onsite inspection, it became clearly apparent that COMTA was not capable of validating or attempting to validate the nonexistent industry standards - as had been promised - that were set forth in the COMTA 'Accreditation Package.'"

Count Five: Tortious Interference with Business Expectancy

"The Defendant COMTA's onsite Team tortuously interfered with Galen's Contractual relations with its students by making statements clearly outside the scope of their investigation that were false... to the effect that, '[I]f the Galen Institute fails to get accredited, you [student] cannot get a Connecticut license for massage therapy."

Count Six: Trover

"... Galen and Jim Lattanzio delivered to COMTA 5 copies (in excess of 10,000 pages) which consisted of extensive proprietary materials containing trade secrets and financial practices, and relevant business and educational strategies and curricula and confidential student records as demanded by Defendant COMTA to answer the questions posed in the Defendants' standards... Defendants Ostendorf and COMTA have since refused to return said original documents and records, committing the tort of Trover."

Count Seven: Violations of CUTPA

"All of the actions of the Defendants COMTA and Ostendorf as set forth in the preceding six counts constitute violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act."

Massage Today contacted COMTA for a statement regarding the lawsuit, and received the following from Executive Director Carole Ostendorf, PhD:

"I appreciate your notification of your intention to publish an article related to the Galen Institute lawsuit related to COMTA. We have been advised by legal counsel against commenting regarding the allegations. Also, part of COMTA's agreement and assurances with the schools in the accreditation process includes confidentiality about their information and their progress toward the accreditation process.

"Note that the case is currently proceeding and is in the early phases. COMTA's response to the allegations will be submitted to the court based on the schedule related to the case."


* For more information on recent developments concerning COMTA, read "U.S. Department of Education to Approve COMTA as National Accrediting Agency" and "COMTA Approved as Accrediting Agency."

 

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