Indiana Daily Student

Lawsuit asks for audit of BMV

As much as $60 million. As many as 4.5 million Hoosiers. As far back ?as 2002.

For Garrett Ashby, it was about $50 the day he got his driver’s ?license.

“I had to pay for the taxes on my first car,” said Ashby, a 22-year-old IU student from Noblesville, Ind. “I remember paying the taxes on the plate, they charge you a registration fee ... they just hit you with all of those. I remember walking out of there feeling like I had been robbed.”

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is alleged to have mistakenly overcharged Hoosiers tens of millions of dollars in the past few years.

In 2013, two class action lawsuits were filed against the BMV by Indianapolis-based law firm Cohen & Malad, LLP. The first lawsuit alleged the BMV overcharged Hoosier drivers under the age of 75 by as much as $29 million from at least 2007 until 2013 in mistaken fees and miscalculations in motor vehicle excise taxes.

The first lawsuit was settled in 2013 in the amount of $30 million and the BMV is repaying overcharged customers through refunds and credits with incurred interest.

The second lawsuit alleges the BMV overcharged as much as $38 million more, dating as far back as 2002. The combined total of alleged overcharges is an estimated $60 ?million.

Irwin Levin, the recipient of the 2013 Consumer Advocate of the Year award from the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, is the attorney from Cohen & Malad, LLP who is working with the lawsuit on behalf of Indiana residents that were overcharged.

“Hoosiers’ ability to drive their cars cannot be held hostage to arbitrary fees imposed by the BMV,” Levin said in a press release. “The BMV does not have the authority to charge fees at its discretion ... The BMV needs to be held accountable, and Indiana residents deserve ?restitution.”

In addition to the refund of overcharged fees, the pending lawsuit requests a full audit of all previous fees and costs be done and for access to public records to find out how long the BMV has known about the alleged overcharges.

The second case was set for a bench trial before Marion Superior Judge James Osborn on June 1, but that date was vacated last week when a notice of mediation was filed.

Charles Geyh, professor of law at the IU Maurer School of Law, suggested a notice of mediation doesn’t necessarily mean a settlement will be reached in a class action lawsuit such as this one.

“A joint notice of mediation indicates that both sides are prepared to sit down with a third-party mediator who will try to help the parties settle the case,” Geyh said. “Settlement is not assured. If the state has a bottom line dollar amount settlement figure ... that is below the plaintiff’s bottom line dollar amount, below which they won’t go, settlement may not be possible.”

Amid the chaos at the BMV, Gov. Mike Pence announced in February that new internal auditors were to be assigned to the agency in order to reassess its fee structures. This announcement was made around the same time another $2 million in overcharging fees from the last six years was discovered to have ?occurred.

Additionally, Pence has moved the BMV’s previous commissioner, Don Snemis, to a position as special counsel for program integrity at the Family and Social Services Administration in order to oversee the implementation of Pence’s new Healthy ?Indiana Plan.

Kent Abernathy became the new BMV commissioner Feb. 12. Previously, he was the chief of staff at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

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