McMurry sues Hardin-Simmons over nursing school

McMurry University filed a lawsuit against fellow Abilene school Hardin-Simmons University, claiming a breach of contract regarding the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing.

(HSU Photo)

The United Methodist-affiliated university is suing Hardin-Simmons—which is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas—for more than $1 million.

The lawsuit, filed in Taylor County’s District Court, asserts HSU failed to honor a contract to sell its interests in the nursing school to McMurry University.

The Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing operates as an intercollegiate consortium of HSU and McMurry.

Historical background

HSU, McMurry and Abilene Christian University initially formed the Abilene Intercollegiate School of Nursing as a nonprofit corporation in 1979.

In 2003, the nursing school became an unincorporated association, and the three universities entered into a consortium agreement, with HSU named as the “coordinating institution” and acting as the nursing school’s administrative and servicing agent.

The school’s name was changed to the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing in 2005. ACU withdrew from the consortium in June 2012.

The suit claims McMurry is trying to save the nursing school, while HSU is seeking to dissolve it and form its own program.

Points of contention

Court documents state the HSU board of trustees directed President Eric Bruntmyer last October to seek to negotiate with McMurry to acquire full ownership of the Patty Hanks School of Nursing or start its own nursing program in the 2023-2024 academic year.

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The legal points of contention center on a March letter from HSU to McMurry with a “buy-sell proposal” regarding the nursing school and whether subsequent correspondence contract constitutes a valid and enforceable purchase.

When contacted by the Baptist Standard, HSU provided the following public statement: “Hardin-Simmons deeply appreciates the long history of working with the other local universities at the Patty Hanks Shelton School of Nursing. We have been in discussions with McMurry about how each university could continue to provide nursing education in Abilene, and unfortunately, we have not been able to agree on the best path forward.

“We are disappointed that McMurry has decided to take this matter into court, instead of working together cooperatively, and we will respond to the lawsuit to accurately set forth HSU’s position. HSU’s desire is to continue to provide excellent training and education to accommodate the need for quality nursing professionals in our community.”

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