IBJNews

Attorney’s report alleges trucking school small-claims abuses

July 26, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

An attorney’s report examining more than 7,700 lawsuits filed by an Indianapolis-based trucking school in just two Marion County township small-claims courts alleges systemic abuses that resulted in thousands of judgments against people who may never have stepped foot in the county or the state.

“I tried to get as much data as I could to establish there are real problems here,” said Jeffrey C. Boulden, who provided copies of his report this week to key judges, Supreme Court justices, the Indiana attorney general’s office and media outlets.

Boulden asserts Driver Solutions LLC filed 7,711 suits in Franklin and Warren township small-claims courts from 2008 through April 30, 2012. That total equals about 148 cases per month – or more than six cases per business day – predominantly against driver trainees nationwide. The company has campuses around the country.

Boulden reviewed 25 percent of those case files as a sample and found 93 percent of the sample cases were filed against defendants who lived outside Indiana, which he claims violates the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. The federal law regarding venue requires such collection actions be filed in the jurisdiction where a contract was signed or where a consumer resides.

The report also claims defendants in numerous cases were improperly served notice through standard U.S. mail, and that about 70 percent of judgments exceeded the statutory small-claims cap of $6,000. Boulden says any such judgments should be voided.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Baker is among the judges who received a copy of Boulden’s examination of Driver Solutions LLC. “It’s pretty sad,” Baker said after his initial review of the unsolicited report titled, “The Poplicola Report on the Marion County Small Claims Court.”

Baker, along with Senior Judge Betty Barteau of the Court of Appeals, headed the Supreme Court Task Force that in May of 2012 issued its Report on the Marion County Small Claims Courts in response to criticism of widespread abuses including perceptions of “forum shopping.”

The township courts since have instituted some reforms, but Baker said lawmakers have failed to respond to the task force report’s recommendations, including a proposal that the township courts be incorporated into Marion Superior Courts. From that standpoint, he said, Boulden’s report isn’t surprising.

“This may well cover times before some significant changes were made, but I am frustrated that notwithstanding our efforts in getting the (task force) report out, there has been no reaction from the General Assembly,” Baker said.

“I’m appreciative of his efforts,” Baker said. Coupled with the task force report, past Indianapolis Bar Association reports of small-claims problems and widespread criticism of court practices, the report joins a body of evidence that “indicates we need some structural change.”

Boulden said Driver Solutions charged a standard tuition of $5,995 for a driver-training course lasting a few weeks, often financing the training with no upfront cost to students. He said company filings often sought to collect interest on defaults as well, pushing the claim past the $6,000 cap.

Attorney Brian Alsip, who filed many of the claims for Driver Solutions during the timeframe Boulden examined, did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Driver Solutions attorney Garrett Lowe provided the following statement from Driver Holdings LLC CEO Michael Benkert:

“While we have not received a copy of the report in question, I am pleased with our commitment to providing career skills and employment opportunities within the trucking industry. In the past year alone, we have assisted over 4,000 individuals in obtaining gainful employment.”

Lowe said the statement would be the extent of the company’s comments regarding the report at this time.

Warren Township Small Claims Judge Garland Graves said he had seen the report and was reviewing Driver Solutions cases filed after he took the bench in 2011.

“I am concerned,” Graves said, and he noted the township no longer allows service via regular mail. But he has concerns, too, about Boulden’s report. “A lot of incomplete information was put forth,” Graves said. For instance, he said some suits might have been properly served, but notice of service could be confidential because it contained Social Security numbers.

“He never contacted me as a judge to address any concerns he may have,” Graves said.

Graves noted Driver Solutions contracts carried a venue clause in which parties agree that any litigation would be filed in a Marion County township court. But he said he couldn’t say whether that provision might violate federal collections law.

“The federal (Fair) Debt Collection (Practices) Act is something I don’t have jurisdiction over,” Graves said. That’s an issue someone could bring in federal court, he said.

Franklin Township Judge John A. Kitley Jr. could not be reached for comment. Calls to the court during business hours Friday were not answered, and a recording said messages could not be left because the court’s voice mailbox was full.

Boulden has been a legal aid attorney for a number of years and said he became familiar with Driver Solutions when representing a dozen or more defendants. He acknowledged the time he devoted to his examination of case files in the township courts cost him his job and took a personal toll, but he said he felt compelled to compile his findings in an attempt to right wrongs.

“I felt my responsibility as a legal-aid-type lawyer was to do this kind of work because no one else was going to do it,” Boulden said. He said of his report, “It is the single best piece of lawyering/advocacy I’ve done in 24 years.”

ADVERTISEMENT

  • class action
    lack of jurisdiction...cause
  • class action
    Have you considered suing? I am going to check into it
  • Yes...my son used the school
    My son used this school. The contract was considered paid if one could last one year in their placement. However, the jobs requirements become very difficult such that few can complete the year. The penalties and fees grow at unbelievable rates. They could never supply a statement of charges and payments. It was a bad contract to sign....but then the objective of the school seems to be collection agency more than truck driver.
    • Jurisdiction
      Due to the collection efforts coming from the original creditor and not a 3rd party, neither the above jurisdiction law or FDCPA apply unless the state of which the company does business in requires original creditors to be subject to the same laws as 3rd party collection agencies and debt purchasers.
    • Driver School
      Sure seems like there was a plan in place to sign you up and then sue. Never have to buy equipment, no classes just a scam. Pure profit and wonder who was in on it?
    • Clarification
      I should clarify. Even if the contract includes a stipulation to jurisdiction on legal proceedings (to get around state jurisdiction requirements), on collection matters the FDCPA applies. You can make FDCPA claims in state courts.
    • Jurisdiction
      "The federal law regarding venue requires such collection actions be filed in the jurisdiction where a contract was signed or where a consumer resides." Uh, state law requires that too. These cases should have been dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

    2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

    3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

    4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

    5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

    ADVERTISEMENT