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Local law firm reaps $6.3M in fees from BMV class-action suit

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A local law firm will receive $6.3 million as part of a class-action lawsuit that accused the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles of overcharging for driver’s licenses.

Cohen & Malad LLP’s fee represents 21 percent of the $30 million awarded to Hoosier motorists as part of a settlement approved by Marion Superior Court Judge Heather Welch on Nov. 12.

A BMV spokesman said in an email that it will abide by the terms and conditions of the settlement.

The overcharges were discovered after Indianapolis attorney Irwin Levin filed suit in March against the BMV, accusing it of overcharging drivers for licenses. Gov. Mike Pence then directed the BMV to conduct an independent review of the more than 300 fees the agency administers. That review found more cases of overcharging.

In response, the BMV cut fees in June for standard operator's licenses by $3.50. The new fees range from $17.50 for a six-year license to $14.50 for a four-year license—a maximum reduction of about 19 percent.

Levin, of Indianapolis-based Cohen & Malad, said the firm, which specializes in class-action suits, negotiated its fee with the state. The fee was lower than the 33-percent charge it typically commands in class actions.

“It wasn’t our job to uncover this; it was the state’s job,” he said. “I’m not going to apologize for taking the risk.”

About 4.5 million Indiana drivers may be eligible to receive a refund, Levin said. The class of plaintiffs includes anyone who paid a fee to the BMV between March 2007 and June 2013.

Amounts awarded to individuals should range from $3.50 to $15, Levin said.

Those eligible for a refund can get a credit while transacting business at a license branch or they can fill out a form that will be available on the BMV website in about a month and receive a check in the mail. The BMV will mail checks to everyone else entitled to a refund.

Levin said he is “extremely satisfied” with the settlement and particularly proud that firm lawyers uncovered the overcharges.

“People don’t have any choice, they have to deal with the BMV,” he said. “If you want to drive legally in Indiana, you’ve got to do business with the BMV.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday named Kent Schroder interim commissioner of the BMV.

Schroder had been the BMV chief of staff since June 1 after serving as its chief information officer since 2005.

He replaces Scott Waddell, who announced his resignation as BMV commissioner last month after three years at the job. He will step down Dec. 2.

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  • Overcharges?
    Not quite sure how this was price gouging, since the $3.50 paid in by the poor hapless victims merely went to the government to run the license bureau. Seems to me the only clear winner here was Mr. Levin, who seems to want a mindboggling windfall for what I am not sure (correcting some state accounting that was not actual fraud or embezzlement) AND also our heartfelt thanks? Sorry Attorney Levin, you will have to be content with the lucre. Not that actions of a patriot as those I hang with view it.

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

  2. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

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  4. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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