Judge green lights 2nd BMV overcharging lawsuit

(WISH Photo, file)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana drivers who were overcharged by millions of dollars in fees could see additional refunds after a Marion County judge ruled that a second lawsuit against the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles can move forward.

The ruling, issued Wednesday in Marion Superior Court by Judge James Osborn, denies a request from the BMV to dismiss the lawsuit, and requires the agency to respond to claims it systematically overcharged drivers for a wide variety of fees. The ruling also requires the BMV to produce evidence sought by public records requests.

Last August, millions of Hoosier drivers were issued small refunds as part of a $30 million settlement where the BMV admitted it had overcharged drivers under the age of 75 who obtained or renewed a driver’s license between 2007 and 2013. The overcharges averaged around $3.50, according to court documents.

Then, in September, the BMV announced a commissioned review by an outside law firm had also identified other fees being charged at rates higher than allowed by state law. The agency declined to identify which fees those were, but a lawsuit filed by Indianapolis-based law firm Cohen and Malad alleges they include everything from vehicle registrations to motorcycle endorsements to chauffeurs licenses.

Last fall, the BMV began lowering those fees and issuing credits. Drivers who wished to obtain a refund check for the amount of their overcharges were asked to fill out an online form. Checks were mailed.

But, Irwin Levin, who filed the lawsuit, says the issue hasn’t been fully resolved.

“The BMV was essentially saying ‘just trust us’ to Hoosiers,” Levin, of Indianapolis-based Cohen and Malad, LLP, told 24-Hour News 8 by phone Thursday. “Some of the charges were OK, but many weren’t. We need to hold them accountable for those.”

Levin’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, plus interest, for all fees overcharged by the BMV.

“We don’t know how much money that is, but I would say it’s certainly well into the 8-figure realm,” Levin said. “And, this occurred both before and after 2007.”

The BMV’s account refunds were calculated to reflect overcharges going back six years, the state’s statute of limitations. Levin has asked a judge to allow refunds on overcharges that occurred beyond that six year window.

He’s also asked the judge to certify the lawsuit as a class-action, meaning all Hoosier drivers would be included as plaintiffs, unless they specifically opt out.

“This ruling means that the BMV has to turn over records showing both how long the overcharges were collected and how long the BMV knew about them,” Levin said. “Hoosiers deserve to know those answers.”

A BMV spokesman declined to comment on the ruling Thursday, saying it is being reviewed by the agency’s attorneys.

Levin said depositions would be scheduled in the case for March, but no new court date has been set yet.

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