Suburban Express Changes Terms Of Service To Screw Sued College Students Out Of University-Provided Legal Aid

from the as-of-2015,-SE-will-be-fucking-you-in-a-new-location dept

Dennis Toeppen of Suburban Express is still deploying his highly-peculiar brand of "customer service" -- something that includes doxxing unhappy customers, suing unhappy customers, suing unhappy customers, suing unhappy customers and being arrested for "harassment through electronic communications."

Nothing has changed. Toeppen is still a lawsuit fan who believes negative reviewers or anyone who doesn't fully appreciate how hard it is to run a shuttle bus service should be forced to pay $500 (at least) in "liquidated damages." Now, he's looking to pave himself a downhill slope for his future lawsuit filing. Techdirt reader Kionae sends over this article from the University of Illinois' campus newspaper which contains a small detail that shows just how far Toeppen is willing to go to get his $500.

Suburban Express recently changed its “Terms & Conditions” so any legal action arising on the online transaction of tickets should take place in Ford County, roughly 30 miles north of Champaign.

In a statement on its website, the company said it chose Ford County “because of high availability of court dates, efficient court operation, excellent staff work ethic, low costs for both parties, easy parking, and other factors.”
This has nothing to do with "efficient court operations" and has everything to do with making it economically unfeasible for sued college students to fight back. Taking the action 30 miles away strips students of the following protection:
According to the Student Legal Services Operational Plan, Student Legal Services can only represent eligible students who have cases in or originating in Champaign County.
Toeppen's change of venue is carefully calculated to extract the most money/misery from the situation. That situation, of course, is Toeppen's inability to run a business and field criticism at the same time. In Toeppen's defense, he'll say he's never wrong and it's these spoiled brat students with overactive mouths who are to blame. (What? Did you think I was going to half-heartedly defend any aspect of Toeppen's behavior?)

With students forced to pay for their own defense against Toeppen's frivolous, vindictive lawsuits, the needle moves towards a higher default judgment rate. That's what Toeppen wants, considering his legal arguments are mostly indefensible. This should see his lawsuit-filing rate approaching the stratospheric highs of 2012-13, a two-year span in which Suburban Express filed 126 lawsuits. Toeppen is misusing the judicial system. Hopefully, the judges there will recognize his venue-shifting for what it is and push cases back to the proper courts.


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  • identicon
    Jake, 4 Mar 2015 @ 3:45pm

    This is something like the third Techdirt post I've read today that's made me want to advocate the fine old US tradition of tarring, feathering and running out of town on a rail. I'm probably going to end up on some sort of government register at this rate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 4 Mar 2015 @ 5:01pm

      Re:

      Let's go for the poetic justice instead: Sentence him to ride his own buses for all eternity. Or at least for a few years.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2015 @ 5:07pm

      Re:

      I can usually tell how many Tim C. posts there have been during the week by counting the number of drywall-repair patch kits I have to buy at the hardware store on Saturday.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2015 @ 5:07pm

      Re:

      Oh honey, you have an actual account here. You're ALREADY on the watchlist. Techdirt is a known haven of freedom hating techno-terrorists trying to spread the leader Kim Jong Masnick's radicalism to our children.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 4:55am

      Re:

      I prefer the tried and true method of the stocks or worst case a nice hanging to get the message across to the rest of the sleaze like this

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Mar 2015 @ 3:59pm

    Unless they legally cannot offer legal/financial aid to students outside that limited area, I think it would be nice, and ever so funny, if they added a 'Toeppen clause', where the rules regarding aid are waived with regards to lawsuits filed by him, given how blatant his move is to make sure the students can't avail themselves of aid from the school.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 4 Mar 2015 @ 4:34pm

    New legal argument

    According to the Student Legal Services Operational Plan, Student Legal Services can only represent eligible students who have cases in or originating in Champaign County.
    Since the alleged cause of action occurred on my client's PC here in Champaign County...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kP (profile), 4 Mar 2015 @ 5:41pm

    Sounds like this guy needs more competition

    What's the story? Why do people keep doing business with this asshat?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 4 Mar 2015 @ 5:48pm

      Re: Sounds like this guy needs more competition

      Most likely because they haven't heard of him before they use his service. Having a reputation for suing people who expose his crap service can make it a dicey choice for people to tell others what a lousy service he's offering, and you can be sure he knows it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        eaving (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:29am

        Re: Re: Sounds like this guy needs more competition

        Ive seen responses to this question on articles over on Ars. They give two, Ill add a third
        1 He only has one real competitor who runs far fewer buses.
        2 Hes cheaper than said competitor.
        3 As his many customers are college students he'll have a constant flow of new victims that don't know the company is run by an asshat.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Nina Paley (profile), 4 Mar 2015 @ 6:27pm

      Re: Sounds like this guy needs more competition

      Sadly, Illini Shuttle/Suburban Express is the only game in town. I need to get to ORD for a speaking trip later this month and am trying to explain to the university sponsoring me that no way, no how will I use Suburban Express to get there. I'm going to try taking Amtrak to a southern Chicago suburb and then a (more expensive) cab from there. It would be nice if there were a decent bus to ORD from Chambana, since so many people need to go there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2015 @ 2:32am

        Re: Re: Sounds like this guy needs more competition

        Former UIUC student here.

        There's actually an Amtrak station in Champaign (station code CHM). Amtrak runs 3 trains a day from Chicago (CHI) to there.

        There's also University of Illinois Willard Airport (airport code CMI) about 10 miles south of campus. It gets a few American Eagle flights from O'hare daily.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Kionae (profile), 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:01am

      Re: Sounds like this guy needs more competition

      Well for one, his main competitor (Illini Tours, formerly Lincolnland Express) has their own problems. They're also higher in price and run fewer buses.

      Interesting tidbit... Suburban Express has a lovely smear campaign page dedicated to them: http://www.suburbanexpress.com/lexsafety/

      For another, this is a company that caters almost exclusively to college students. There are thousands of new ones every year, most of whom have never heard of any of these lawsuits.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 4 Mar 2015 @ 7:19pm

    There needs to be more awareness of this

    Since he's suing unhappy customers, perhaps some unbiased reporting needs to be done. Like a thermometer style display showing "Suburban Express Lawsuits against Students - 2015". or simple signs that just say "Google Suburban Express Lawsuits". Conveniently placed near bus stops, the Student Union, Admissions Building, Dorm Lobbies, Cafeterias, etc.

    Come on guys, crowd-fund this thing. Encourage the Freshmen to do a little due diligence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2015 @ 8:18pm

      Re: There needs to be more awareness of this

      Don't ride that bus they will sue you for using the service.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 2:36am

      Re: There needs to be more awareness of this

      Then he'll sue whoever put up the signs, everyone who is responsible for the buildings and didn't remove the signs, and a few completely unrelated students who happened to be near the signs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:03am

        Re: Re: There needs to be more awareness of this

        First he's have to find out who put them up. If they weren't riders, then he'd have to sue in the right county. Does IL have a good Anti-SLAPP law? That would really help.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2015 @ 8:28pm

    All systems normal...

    A co-worker bitches about Comcast almost weekly. Sometimes it's about their bill and others it's about the insane amount of ads they are forced to watch or the lack of good programming. Whatever the case, they really seem to dislike Comcast. Strangely, they backtrack and defend Comcast whenever I suggest they cut the cord. They act as if they have no choice in the matter; they are somehow forced to tolerate shitty, sub-par service.

    Like Comcast, Suburban Express is just one of MANY companies that piss all over their customers and manage to remain in business. Meaningful change cannot happen until we, the customers, decide to force one of these assholes out of business by NOT BUYING ANYTHING FROM THEM UNTIL THEY ARE BANKRUPT.

    I'd suggest voting with your wallets but nobody ever does so, meh, fuck it...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous, 4 Mar 2015 @ 9:08pm

    Suburban Express

    Why can't the student newspaper run an article on how many students have been sued by this asshole and his company? As an Ill-annoy resident I'm offended this hasn't been run monthly by The Daily Illini.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2015 @ 7:48am

    There is an easier way to shut him up, quit using his service, when he goes bust everyone wins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan G Difino, 5 Mar 2015 @ 9:24am

    ToS are BS

    Terms of Service are bullshit one-sided delivered up to internet surfers who have the same equal right to access the internet as these people who start these web sites. Terms of service are not contractual unless both parties agree to be bound by it and fully understand all stipulations which are usually written by lawyers and even under normal circumstances need to be deciphered by lawyers who understand the lawyerspeak and legal jargon within those ToS. Never will the ToS say that you should hire a lawyer to decipher the ToS. That should render them neutered.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Docrailgun, 5 Mar 2015 @ 12:11pm

    I hope...

    ... someone will make a small fortune winning legal fees from this douche doing pro bono work for these students.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JV, 13 Mar 2015 @ 9:19am

    bbb is totally useless

    Don't bother hoping bbb is fair and will help you.
    They are bias to the business and are two face.
    Sue the bastard who abused your trust if you don't care about lawyer fees.
    don't waste your time or sleep.
    I believe in judgement day.Let God be the judge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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