KALAMAZOO — A 21-year-old Western Michigan University student whose gripe with a towing company has caught fire on the Internet through the social-networking site Facebook is now the target of a $750,000 lawsuit by the company.
The “Kalamazoo Residents against T & J Towing” group on Facebook has gained more than 4,200 members since Justin Kurtz launched it in February after his car was towed from the apartment complex where he lives.
T & J Towing last week sued Kurtz seeking $750,000 in damages and requesting a court order that he “immediately cease and desist any further libelous and slanderous written claims” about the company. The suit filed on behalf of T & J Towing President Joseph Bird says the company has lost numerous business accounts since Kurtz launched the Facebook group.
“I’m not losing sleep about it,” Kurtz said Tuesday.
The WMU aviation student from Yorkville, N.Y., said he decided to start the Facebook group during the first week of February, just a few days after his Saturn SL2 was towed from a parking spot at The Arboretum apartment complex west of campus.
He claims his car was legally parked and that he had his complex-issued parking sticker displayed, but that the sticker was missing and the front end of his car was damaged when he reclaimed the vehicle from T & J Towing for a $118 fee.
Kurtz says on his Facebook group that he believes his car was broken into and his parking sticker removed so that his car, locked and guarded by an alarm, could be towed, assertions he reiterated Tuesday to the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Numerous messages posted on Kurtz’s Facebook group allege others’ vehicles were legally parked when they were towed by T & J, including some who also say their parking stickers had been removed from their windows.
In the two-page complaint filed April 5 in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court, the company alleges Kurtz is using the Facebook group in a “crusade to post verbal and written claims ... with allegations that are untrue and/or dishonest and without merit” and that a “continual onslaught of libelous and slanderous claims” has caused the towing company to lose business.
A woman who answered a call to T & J Towing Tuesday said that the company was directing questions to its attorney, Richard K. Burnham, of Paw Paw. The Kalamazoo Gazette was unable to reach Burnham for comment.
The Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, meanwhile, has given T & J Towing an overall rating of “F.”
A bureau report on the company shows a pattern of “complaints in which consumers allege the company towed vehicles in error when either the vehicle had the required parking pass, or the vehicle was not parked in a designated no parking area.”
“In addition,” the report says, “there is also a pattern of complaints alleging that the company only accepts cash as a payment method, but refuses to provide change if the consumer does not have the exact amount.”
T & J Towing has failed to respond to 17 of 20 complaints filed against it over the last three years, according to the bureau.
“The grade says it all,” Ken Vander Meede, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, said of T & J Towing. “I don’t do business with ‘F’ businesses and we encourage people not to do business with ‘F’ businesses. This is a company that has had a number of inquiries and a number of complaints and their record stands on its own.”
Kurtz said he planned to speak with an attorney today, but that he isn’t worried by the lawsuit and has no plans to take down his Facebook group.
He’s watching, in the meantime, as the number of members in the group continues to grow. It jumped by 800 between Monday and Tuesday afternoon after news of the T & J lawsuit spread.
Contact Rex Hall Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or (269) 388-7784.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Western Michigan University Student Is Sued In Facebook Battle With Towing Company
Here's the story from the Kalamazoo Gazette:
Posted by Cyndi Kight, Associate Editor of Towing & Recovery Footnotes at 1:37 PM