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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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  • 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.

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