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

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.


  • Shameful
    Echoing the comments in earlier posts, this is so typical and so wrong. License holders receive a credit of $3.50 and the law firm receives $6.3 million. When I heard of the comments Levin made to Waddell, it was even worse. He made it "personal" while seeking enrichment.
  • Fraud
    Thanks for your post JJ, aka Irwin Levin.
  • who is at falt
    Who is at fault? It is not the lawyers, but the state. I am surpised that the populous forgets, the state overcharged the people, not the state. In addition, the payoff for the people is minimal, I would like the state to give me the same settlement with taxes and fees. If I am late with my property tax, the state charges me 10%. I think the state got a great deal.
    • son of a son of a
      Great use of Buffett lyric to comment on this story...
    • screwed again
      Over charged by the State and over charged by the lawyers; that's become typical of the US justice system. And we tell other countries they should pattern theirs after ours. Yeah, right.
    • BMV
      When this first came up, I posted that it would cost more to issue refunds and that they should just adjust fees for a limited time to provide "compensation". Not everybody would be fully compensated, and some would come out ahead, but no matter how you did the math, nobody would have lost more, and received more, than a relatively small amount. Now, they are going to have to handle refunds that are undeliverable, they are going to have to handle numerous phone calls, and the "cure" and is going to be far worse than the "disease". Does common sense ever, ever enter into the equation anymore?
    • Sad but not surprising
      Would be nice if C&M LLP used their "earnings" to relocate their firm to another country, preferably one without cars!
    • What a crock
      And people wonder why law firms are perceived as sleezy and shady. I sure do feel better about getting my 3.50 back from the BMV. They could have kept it and I would feel better than lining the pockets of another "fleece the people" law firm. Amazing to say the least.
    • Silly
      Is anyone surprised that Levin is "extremely satisfied" with the settlement? His firm gets $6.3MM for finding an error at the BMV. What risk is he referring to, by the way? The risk of wasting a few man hours to put a case together? Big deal. I too say keep my money, as I think the majority of people would say. Why didn't the court just tell the BMV to correct the problem and throw the case out?? Paying $6.3MM to a group of already wealthy attorneys is pretty irritating from my perspective. Levin would have been better off not giving an interview on the settlement. Better to fly under the radar sometimes.
    • Not a Lawyer a Thief or a Banker...
      Sadly once I was idealistic and went and got a law degree. Even passed the bar exam - because, well, why not... had the degree. Never have used it for anything. Some people are impressed by it, but mostly I just get asked what'd I get it for... Thing is, I really don't know. Seemed like a good idea at first, and then I didn't want to quit, but now I just can't stomach stuff like this... I wish someone would represent me in a class action to make the university take back this degree... and about 100,000 others... that'd be a good start...
      • Awful
        I've never once taken part in a class action because the usual result is only a few measly bucks. Sad that so many lawyers are in the business of creating litigation and even more sad that we're still cranking out thousands of new lawyers every year, some who will add to this circus.
      • Class Action
        Just drove by a high end car dealer....2 new autos ready to be delivered today. I wonder.....
      • Class Action
        Horse hockey...keep my $3.50 since it will cost way more to issue the check. "Specializes in class actions"...pathetic.
      • Typical
        Wow! Thanks Irwin Levin for helping "us". We get a couple bucks apiece so that we can afford to add fries to our cheeseburger next time we get fast food, which is fair since that's all that we lost. But you get $6.3 million for very little work based on something you "discovered" (were told about). So we lost a couple bucks initially but now we get reimbursed those couple of bucks but then have to turn right around and pay them back in higher taxes needed to pay your fee. Instead of being screwed once we have now been screwed twice. Yeah, thanks alot. You attorneys definitely earn your pejorative reputation honestly.
      • Which Is Worse
        So I will recieve between $3.50 to $15.00 and the law firm gets $6.3M. Do you feel better now? I don't.
      • Typical of class actions
        This is exactly how every class action works out. The litigants get a couple bucks, no more than $15 here, meaning that it wasn't even worth the bother. Meanwhile their lawyers get huge fees. Way to go, Plaintiff's bar. You're not useless leaches on society at all.

      Post a comment to this story

      We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
      You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
      Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
      No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
      We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

      Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

      Sponsored by

      facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

      Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
      Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
      Subscribe to IBJ
      1. I am not by any means judging whether this is a good or bad project. It's pretty simple, the developers are not showing a hardship or need for this economic incentive. It is a vacant field, the easiest for development, and the developer already has the money to invest $26 million for construction. If they can afford that, they can afford to pay property taxes just like the rest of the residents do. As well, an average of $15/hour is an absolute joke in terms of economic development. Get in high paying jobs and maybe there's a different story. But that's the problem with this ask, it is speculative and users are just not known.

      2. Shouldn't this be a museum

      3. I don't have a problem with higher taxes, since it is obvious that our city is not adequately funded. And Ballard doesn't want to admit it, but he has increased taxes indirectly by 1) selling assets and spending the money, 2) letting now private entities increase user fees which were previously capped, 3) by spending reserves, and 4) by heavy dependence on TIFs. At the end, these are all indirect tax increases since someone will eventually have to pay for them. It's mathematics. You put property tax caps ("tax cut"), but you don't cut expenditures (justifiably so), so you increase taxes indirectly.

      4. Marijuana is the safest natural drug grown. Addiction is never physical. Marijuana health benefits are far more reaching then synthesized drugs. Abbott, Lilly, and the thousands of others create poisons and label them as medication. There is no current manufactured drug on the market that does not pose immediate and long term threat to the human anatomy. Certainly the potency of marijuana has increased by hybrids and growing techniques. However, Alcohol has been proven to destroy more families, relationships, cause more deaths and injuries in addition to the damage done to the body. Many confrontations such as domestic violence and other crimes can be attributed to alcohol. The criminal activities and injustices that surround marijuana exists because it is illegal in much of the world. If legalized throughout the world you would see a dramatic decrease in such activities and a savings to many countries for legal prosecutions, incarceration etc in regards to marijuana. It indeed can create wealth for the government by collecting taxes, creating jobs, etc.... I personally do not partake. I do hope it is legalized throughout the world.

      5. Build the resevoir. If built this will provide jobs and a reason to visit Anderson. The city needs to do something to differentiate itself from other cities in the area. Kudos to people with vision that are backing this project.