Law School Dropout Gets $339,000 Student Loan Discharged

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on May 24, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's a high standard to meet, but a law school dropout has successfully argued "undue hardship" to get more than $339,000 in student loans discharged. Her undue hardship: Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, according to a judge's ruling.

As most current and former law students know, even filing for bankruptcy generally doesn't relieve one's duty to repay student loans. Only when a court finds an "undue hardship" exists will a student loan be discharged.

Carol Todd of Maryland met the undue hardship standard via her debilitating Asperger's syndrome, a bankruptcy judge has ruled. This despite the fact that Todd later obtained a master's degree and a Ph.D. after dropping out of law school.

Carol Todd started law school at the University of Baltimore in 1992 when she was 39, but never finished her degree, according to The National Law Journal. She went on to get her Ph.D. from an unaccredited online school in 2007.

But Asperger's syndrome, along with post-traumatic stress from a prior injury involving a horse, prevented Todd from getting a job, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gordon found. Even on the witness stand, Todd "folded into a fearful shell" for no apparent reason, Gordon wrote in his decision.

"The Court concludes that to 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," Judge Gordon wrote.

Todd owed $339,361 for her student loans when her trial began. Now she won't have to repay any of it.

Judge Gordon's decision also praised Carol Todd's attorney Frank Turney, who worked pro bono "and did an exemplary job under very trying circumstances. Mr. Turney's conduct in taking this case to trial exemplifies those special, praise-worthy qualities held by the very best of the Honorable Profession," Gordon wrote.

You can read the entire decision here:

Bankruptcy Judge Forgives Student Loan Debt because of Debtor's Autism

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