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Friday, November 22, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - "Hoosiers due $24 million in refunds from Indiana BMV"

Updating this ILB entry from Sept. 30th and this follow-up from Oct. 2nd, Tim Evans of the Indianapolis Star reports:

More than 4.5 million Hoosiers are in line for a share of about $24 million in refunds from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, according to a settlement in a unique class-action lawsuit in Marion Superior Court.

The big winner, however, may be the Indianapolis law firm of Cohen & Malad, which uncovered the BMV overcharges and will collect about $6 million for its work representing Hoosiers in the case.

The $30 million settlement deal, said attorney Irwin Levin of Cohen & Malad, means the BMV will refund 100 percent of the overcharges it collected from March 7, 2007, through June 27 from people obtaining or renewing driver’s licenses.

Under the settlement approved this month, individual refunds will range from about $3.50 to $15. * * *

Refunds will be provided in the form of credits on future transactions or checks, which can be requested through the BMV website. Hoosiers who are due a refund but who have not collected it via a transaction or check request will be sent a check when a final accounting is conducted in three years.

Levin filed the lawsuit in March on behalf of Tammy Raab after his firm’s research revealed the BMV was charging more than allowed under Indiana law when Hoosiers obtained or renewed driver’s licenses.

Marion Superior Court Judge Heather Welch granted the case class-action status and named Cohen & Malad as counsel for the class and a settlement was negotiated this fall.

The BMV acknowledged the overcharges in June and cut fees back to the state-approved levels.

Levin said several factors make the case unusual.

“This may be be the most unique class-action case in Indiana,” he said. “That’s because these types of lawsuits are usually brought when it is apparent something is wrong. But in this case, the state was unaware of the problem until we brought it to their attention.”

If the overcharges had not been uncovered, Levin said, it is likely Hoosiers would have continued to pay more than the law allowed for driver’s licenses. He said one expert estimate submitted as part of the case indicated the overcharges could have run as high as an additional $10 million over the next year.

The lawsuit also prompted Gov. Mike Pence to order an independent review of other BMV charges. That examination revealed the agency had been overcharging for some additional services while undercharging for others. * * *

Levin defended his firm’s fee in the case, noting it was approved by the judge and was substantially lower than fees Cohen & Malad typically collects on class-action cases. The $6 million represents about 21 percent of the settlement, he said, while a fee of about 33 percent is closer to the norm.

“Of all the cases we’ve done,” he explained, “this is the smallest percentage” of the settlement the firm has received.

Levin said the case has generated more than cash for the law firm.

“We’ve received more ‘thank-yous’ from people on the street in this case than any other case I’ve done,” he said. “People recognize somebody has to hold government accountable, and we are proud to have done that.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 22, 2013 08:46 AM
Posted to Indiana Government