“This is great news for the state,” said Gregory Bowman, dean of the College of Law. “Using legal research, scholarship and outreach, we plan to provide publications on consumer rights and remedies that will help our state’s residents.”
WVU law professors and students working on the project will analyze consumer regulations and make policy recommendations to state agencies and the state legislature. They will also help lawyers and organizations who protect the consumer rights of West Virginians.
“This program is a perfect example of higher education's power to improve West Virginians’ lives,” said Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University. “West Virginia University is proud to partner with Marshall University in protecting consumer rights through research, outreach and public policy advocacy.”
“We are pleased that we will have the opportunity to work in synergy with WVU to deliver consumer-related programming for West Virginians,” said Jerome A. Gilbert, president of Marshall University. “Our universities will support each other in this new joint project to help our citizens know their rights as consumers.”
The Joint Consumer Assistance Project was established by attorneys involved in Swiger v. Amerigas, a significant consumer class action case involving over 14,000 West Virginians. The attorneys representing all of the parties agreed that any remaining funds not claimed by the class members would be used for consumer-oriented programs in the state, including the Joint Consumer Assistance Project.
A winter heating assistance program operated by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources also received unclaimed funds from Swiger v. Amerigas. That program helps residents who are unable to pay for fuel to heat their homes.
Swiger v. Amerigas and the use of the remaining excess funds was approved by Senior Judge Robert B. Stone of the Monongalia Circuit Court.
The donation was spearheaded by Clarksburg consumer attorney David J. Romano, a 1977 WVU College of Law graduate who was lead counsel in Swiger v. Amerigas. His vision for use of the excess funds was to provide relevant consumer information and “how to” materials so that hard-working West Virginians would have resources available to empower them with information necessary to protect their property and be aware of their rights.
“The Joint Consumer Assistance Project will establish and maintain a website with consumer information and tips, as well as reference to laws and regulations that will help persons with such issues navigate what are sometimes complicated matters,” Romano said. “There is also a plan to develop an interactive site that can assist West Virginians who, due to cost, must represent themselves in consumer disputes.”
The donation to WVU College of Law was part of A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia's University, which ended on December 31, 2017. The campaign raised more than $1.2 billion for WVU.