Judge may consider additional refunds in BMV overcharging case

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A Marion County Judge could decide as early as next month whether millions of Hoosier drivers are entitled to additional refunds from Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Attorneys argued several new requests concerning allegations of fee overcharging in court on Monday.

Last August, millions of Hoosier drivers were issued small refunds as part of a $30 million settlement where the BMV admitted it had overcharged drivers under the age of 75 who obtained or renewed a driver’s license between 2007 and 2013. The overcharges averaged around $3.50, according to court documents.

The following month, the BMV announced that a commissioned review by an outside law firm had also identified other fees being charged at rates higher than allowed by state law. A separate lawsuit filed by Indianapolis-based law firm Cohen and Malad alleges the fees include everything from vehicle registrations to motorcycle endorsements, personalized license plate fees and chauffeurs licenses.

A ruling, issued in February in Marion Superior Court by Judge James Osborn, denied a request from the BMV to dismiss the new lawsuit, which claims the agency systematically overcharged drivers for a wide variety of fees. The case has since been transferred to a new judge.

Last fall, the BMV began lowering those fees and issuing credits. Drivers who wished to obtain a refund check for the amount of their overcharges were asked to fill out an online form. Checks were mailed.

But, the lawsuit claims the issue hasn’t been fully resolved. It seeks unspecified damages, plus interest, for all fees overcharged by the BMV, estimated to be between $30 million and $40 million.

The lawsuit also asks the court to allow refunds on overcharges that occurred beyond the state’s six year statute of limitations window.

Court documents also contain allegations that the BMV was aware as early as 2010 that some of its fees exceeded the amounts allowed under state law, but that it continued overcharging Hoosier drivers for at least two years in order to avoid budget troubles.

The allegations, made by former BMV Deputy Director Matthew Foley as part of a deposition, contradict statements made by former BMV Commissioner Scott Waddell. Waddell testified in his deposition that the BMV had “no inkling of the overcharges, in any manner, way, shape or form, prior to the filing” of the first lawsuit, according to court documents.

The new lawsuit claims a “limited privilege log” produced as evidence by the BMV in the first lawsuit “identifies documents dating back to 2007 relating to [overcharging], as well as Waddell’s backtracking testimony on the afternoon of his deposition that at least one potential overcharge was brought to his attention in 2009 or 2010,” according to court filings.

The BMV, represented by the Indiana Attorney General’s office, filed a motion in April asking a judge to immediately rule in its favor, claiming the lead plaintiff in the class-action case did not actually pay any of the alleged overcharges, and that she failed to file a proper tort claim notice. Attorneys for the plaintiff asked the judge last week for additional time to respond to the state’s request.

Judge John Hanley took that request under advisement Monday. If that request is denied, his ruling could be issued at any time.

A BMV spokesman has previously said the agency would not comment on pending litigation.

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