Bus company wants to reinstate some lawsuits

Bus company wants to reinstate some lawsuits

PAXTON — A Champaign charter bus service that filed 126 small-claims cases in Ford County — only to drop most of them later amid a backlash from University of Illinois students named as defendants — is now asking the court to allow some of the cases to be reinstated.

But the president of the company said the cases will not be refiled in Ford County Circuit Court.

"I imagine that most/all of our new cases will be filed in Champaign County, so that any students we pursue have access to Student Legal Services and can feel that they have a reasonable opportunity to defend their fraudulent activities," said Dennis E. Toeppen of Champaign, president of the bus service, Suburban Express Inc.

The lawsuits, many against UI students, were for alleged violations of the company's "terms and conditions" that each passenger must agree to before buying a ticket online. The terms and conditions had designated Ford County as the venue for any legal action that arose.

One issue raised by UI students: They are not eligible to receive free representation from the UI's Student Legal Services, which only offers such assistance for cases filed in Champaign County.

Of the 126 cases, 103 were dismissed "with prejudice" April 30, meaning Suburban Express is barred from filing another case on the same claim. One day earlier, seven other Suburban Express cases were dismissed. Six others had been dismissed earlier this year.

But on May 28, motions were filed to vacate 22 of the dismissals with prejudice.

"I believe the motions seek to change case status from 'dismissed with prejudice' to 'dismissed without prejudice,'" Toeppen said.

If the motions are granted, Suburban Express plans to refile the cases in another county, Toeppen said. He noted that "we do not desire to litigate any of the cases in Ford County" and "we will not necessarily litigate all of these (dismissed) cases."

Separate motions were also filed May 28 in the same 22 cases seeking a substitution of attorneys for Suburban Express. The company is asking the court to change its attorney to the law firm Bellas & Wachowski of Park Ridge.

Suburban Express had previously been represented by two law firms based in Champaign: the Meyer Capel law firm and the Chapin & Long law firm.

The cases that Suburban Express is seeking to reinstate seek damages ranging from $68.59 to $629.95, plus court costs and attorney fees.

Earlier this year, Colleen Ramais, an attorney from the Meyer Capel law firm, said some of the cases involved students buying their tickets online, then printing out multiple copies of the tickets and allowing others to use them. Another issue was students using tickets on the incorrect dates, or altering the dates listed on the printed copy, she said.

Alain Leval, an attorney whose son, UI student Jeremy Leval, is named as one of the defendants, said last week that he contacted the attorney who filed the motion to reinstate his son's case and indicated to him that the "subject of the complaint is totally without merit both in law and fact." He said "any further pursuit of this case would be for the sole purpose of harassment."

Tim Knudsen, a UI law student from Wheaton who serves as student-body vice president external, said "the fact that Suburban Express may be attempting to reopen these lawsuits is extremely bizarre and frustrating."

"Students do not deserve to float in legal limbo for these alleged small infractions," he said. "As always, the Illinois Student Senate will not overlook the exploitation of students. ... If the facts show that Suburban Express is exploiting students, the ISS will act in whatever capacity we are fit, and can be effective."

Suburban Express has since revised its terms and conditions for purchasing tickets to remove any mention of Ford County as the venue for legal action.

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dickson wrote on June 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Bottomline- Have these students paid their correct bus fare amount? if not then it is proper that the bus company proceeds with the suit. No point in saying "Suburban Express may be attempting to reopen these lawsuits is extremely bizarre and frustrating".

rivardau wrote on June 26, 2013 at 11:06 pm

And for the ones who did pay the correct fare?

But that the bus driver didn't take the correct ticket?  
Or that the ticketing scanning system didn't recognize when a duplicate ticket was presented?

It's a pretty easy question - either YES, the student did pay correctly, and the company got their money; or NO, the student didn't pay, and the company didn't get their money.

A pretty easy accounting excercise, I would think.

The terms of service also included that the credit card used to buy the original ticket can be used automatically by Suburban Express to charge the extra 100$-500$ fees.  And most times Suburban Express was successful, I know of several of my friends who didn't want to fight him or their credit card company, and just let their "fine" be paid, and also of course never using their company again.

Some of these cases are where the fines were charged, or attempted to be charged, and the passenger/student (or their parent if the parent owned the credit card), would complain to the card company.  The card company then did its up to 60 days investigation into Suburban Express's charge request, and many times would deny it and support their bank customer, because Suburban Express couldn't always prove that the fine was a valid charge.

Many of these cases are for these types of situations.  

As I have commented before, the major issue is that Suburban Express is using a ticketing system incorrectly, and blaming passengers for their or their drivers' faults.

Every Suburban Express ticket has a bar code with unique number printed on it.  

The tickets HAVE to be folded exactly 1 correct way - the reason isn't just because Suburban Express is a control-freak (well, they are, but that's a different issue), it is because they COULD be scanned with a hand-held scanner, or a bus-mounted scanner, or later in an office.  In any case, there are choices that the company COULD make to ensure its ticket collection is secure, and they do not.

Tickets used for the wrong date????  Puh-leez, any employee who controls access to the vehicle's doorway, is responsible for the minimal job of READING the ticket.  Correct date, and time of day?  Get on board!  
Incorrect date, or right date and wrong time of day?  Sorry, you need to wait for your correct bus or else change your reservation.

And actually if you think of it, the cases of "multiple copies" of the emailed ticket were copied and used by a passenger's friends, if all tickets were read, they would all be on the same bus because of the date and time issue, right?  Logically?

So then it would be absolutely simple for the driver to figure out that there are multiple papers in the collection pouch, and he would have the proof in his hand.   Becuase if the manifest says 32 passengers are supposed to be on board, he should have 32 pieces of paper, and if he has 33 or 34 or whatever, that would be an obvious issue that something is wrong, and to recheck the papers in the pouch before driving the vehicle.

Any duplicate copy that was tried to be used on another date or time, should not have even been accepted simply for wrong schedule, without even needing to do any online verification that the ticket number is a duplicate or not.

It really is THAT simple.  American Airlines does it.  Amtrak does it.  Peoria Charter does it.  A gate agent, a train conductor, a bus driver --- someone who works for the company has the legal obligation to ensure that the manifest is correct, and that means that someone has to look at and read the ticket to ensure it is the correct one.

In fact, if you rode American Airlines, or Amtrak, or anyone else, on a ticket that was issued for the wrong date, and you were notified anywhere from 3 months to 2 yrs later that you are now being sued by American Airlines, or Amtrak, or whoever -- what are you going to think?

That is exactly the stuff that is going on here at Suburban Express.  They want to require paper tickets, which is ok, but they don't want to pay for controlling the paper ticket system.

They don't want to pay for converting everything over to an all-online-system either.  Which is their corporate choice.

But to rely on lawyers and courts for enforcing something is the very expensive way of just having drivers read the damn tickets to begin with.

Of course, I fully support any suit that will go after theft of service.  I know, that some of these cases are not for theft of services, they are for driver or company mistakes or errors or invalid procedures. 


george_bailey_1945 wrote on July 12, 2013 at 10:07 am

There's really no need for you to engage in wild speculation about the lawsuits, when they are all linked above. Your wild speculation turns out to be incorrect. 

Furthermore, the extreme length of your posts in this forum is inappropriate and I would advise you to be more concise in the future.

SaintClarence27 wrote on June 26, 2013 at 8:06 pm

How nice of them to not refile in an improper venue! After all, it wasn't obvious before that they were filing in an improper venue for the sole purpose of screwing students or anything...

george_bailey_1945 wrote on July 26, 2013 at 9:07 pm

This url leads to all four lawsuit pdfs