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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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