Suburban Express faces default judgment


Kenyon Edmond

Suburban Express, Champaign-based transit company, and its owner Dennis Toeppen are facing default judgement in the discrimination and harassment case filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Suburban Express has not responded to any of the State’s communication thus far, prolonging settlements.

By Jessica Bursztynsky, Senior Reporter

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is accusing Suburban Express and its owner, Dennis Toeppen, of stalling and is seeking a default judgment against the transit company.

Madigan sued the Champaign-based transit company on April 23 over alleged discrimination and harassment, and the two have been negotiating a settlement. But a motion filed by Madigan on Nov. 2 says Toeppen has not responded to multiple forms of contact since he sent an email on Oct. 9.

A default judgment can occur when one party is not responsive to the other or has failed to perform the court-ordered action. Madigan is asking a judge to rule in her office’s favor and provide a ruling against Toeppen, even though he isn’t present.

“The defendants have not responded to any of the State’s communications. Instead, the defendants have made every effort to delay this matter, and prolong the scheduling of further settlement discussions with the court,” according to the report. “Based on the content of the defendants’ Oct. 9 email message to the State and the defendants’ apparent unwillingness to communicate further regarding settlement terms, and instead merely delay this matter, the State does not believe further settlement efforts will be productive even in light of the recent appointment of settlement counsel for the defendants.”

Toeppen declined to comment, saying in an email, “You are wasting your time analyzing a meaningless and inconsequental (sic) filing.”

Records from the Attorney General Office show Toeppen originally asked for their settlement conference to be sometime between Nov. 5 and Nov. 8. A motion hearing is set for Dec. 5.

Madigan is suing for $50,000 per deceptive act, $50,000 per deceptive act with the intent to defraud, $10,000 for offenses violating people over 65 and up to $10,000 per defendant for unlawful acts of discrimination.

The lawsuit stems from a Dec. 2 advertisement from Suburban Express, saying, “You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.”

The message prompted swift backlash, with University officials, Illinois Student Government members and Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar condemning the company. Madigan promptly began an investigation.

Upon filing a lawsuit against the company, an April 23 press release from Madigan’s office alleged Toeppen went to “extreme lengths to ban and publicly shame or embarrass” customers who upset Toeppen.

“Suburban Express and Dennis Toeppen have engaged in illegal discrimination and harassment against college students and their families,” Madigan said in the release. “I am asking the court to take immediate action to prevent further harm to people who have been targeted by Suburban Express and its owner, and my lawsuit seeks to shut this company down for good.”

Toeppen is currently complying with a temporary restraining order that requires his company to take down any personally identifying customer information. Suburban Express previously kept a “Page of Shame,” listing customers who had “wronged” Toeppen.

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