A former law student has won a case in bankruptcy court to have her $340,000 education debt discharged because she was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, which caused her to have trouble paying the loans. The ruling was handed down on May 17 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The court said that Carol Todd, who was a student at the University of Baltimore School of Law, met the requirement of burden should she have to be forced to repay the debt. The court said Todd would suffer undue hardship should she repay the money.
Todd acquired her high school general equivalency back in the 1980s, at 39, and started in law school in 1992. She did not finish her career in law school but did acquire a master’s degree from Towson University along with a Ph.D. from an online school in 2007. In 2009, Todd filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. When the trial began, Todd was 63 and owed close to $340,000 to three creditors for student loans.
Judge Robert Gordon realized how difficult it would be for Todd to repay the debt and that she met the difficulty standard, writing the following, “it must be possible for some combination of factors to exist to justify the discharge of a student loan debt.”
The judge made it known that Todd suffers from Asperger Syndrome, which is a type of autism that prevents her from acquiring a job and keeping a small standard of living. The judge said that the situation she is in fell under the federal law’s exemption for the repaying of an educational debt. Judge Gordon also wrote that during the testimony given by Todd, she ‘folded into a fearful shell’ and was overwhelmed when asked ‘seemingly innocuous questions.’
“[T]o expect Ms. Todd to ever break the grip of Autism and meaningfully channel her energies toward tasks that are not in some way either dictated, or circumscribed, by the demands of her disorder would be to dream the impossible dream,” he wrote.
“You hardly find a student loan debt case where the debts are discharged,” said Frank Turney. Turney was the attorney for Todd and is from Catonsville, Maryland. “This situation had a client who had some serious disabilities.”