Thursday, September 29, 2016
Ind. Courts - "Attorney asks judge to order BMV to pay up to $144 million" to Hoosiers
$32 million or $144 million?
The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and attorneys launching a class-action lawsuit against the agency are more than $100 million apart on what they say the BMV owes its customers for years of inflated fees.
With millions of dollars at stake, attorneys on Wednesday presented Marion Superior Court Judge John Hanley with two opposing views of how much the agency must pay back after it overcharged residents in fees for titles and registrations.
After the one-day bench trial, Hanley asked for an extension to decide whether the BMV owes state residents more than the $32 million it is in the process of refunding. This is the second class-action suit regarding overcharging. In 2013, the BMV settled a lawsuit for $30 million that focused on fees for driver's licenses.
Attorney Irwin B. Levin argued that the BMV should refund overcharges going back 10 years and pay interest. In total, he calculated, the BMV should refund its customers $144 million. However, he presented an array of scenarios in which the judge could take into account undercharges and pre-existing refunds, with options to issue a ruling that dips as low as $76 million.
But from the BMV's point of view, such a ruling benefits only the attorneys. Carl Hayes, attorney for the BMV, argued that the lawsuit harms taxpayers and lines the pockets of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
Hayes said the BMV has calculated only $32 million in overcharges. He asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the BMV is already in the process of making the refund. Otherwise, he said, the lawyers take home millions in attorney fees while each customer is refunded a small amount of money.
"This kind of lawsuit is bad for Hoosiers, bad for taxpayers," Hayes said, also arguing that the statute of limitations does not allow plaintiffs to seek refunds going back 10 years.
Levin, though, countered that without a looming lawsuit, the BMV would not have begun issuing refunds. He argued that the agency started paying the money back in an attempt to reduce the impact of the suit.