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Mediation derails in BMV overcharging case

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A mediation session Monday was unsuccessful in brokering an agreement in a two-year-old class-action lawsuit against Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles, attorneys involved in the case said.

The lawsuit alleges the BMV systematically overcharged Hoosier drivers on a wide variety of fees since 2002. Monday’s mediation session, requested jointly and voluntarily, was designed to see if the two sides could find common ground toward an amicable settlement.

“The mediation did not result in a settlement,” Carl Hayes of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP told I-Team 8 late Monday. “No terms were presented that, in our estimation, were good for Indiana taxpayers.”

Bingham Greenebaum Doll is representing the BMV in the case.

Attorneys for plaintiffs in the case, which include all Hoosier drivers who did not specifically opt out, are seeking unspecified damages plus interest for all fees they allege were overcharged by the BMV. That includes everything from vehicle registrations to motorcycle endorsements, personalized license plate fees and chauffeurs licenses. They previously estimated total overcharges to be between $30 million and $40 million.

Messages left Monday for plaintiffs’ attorneys at Cohen & Malad LLP were not immediately returned.

The two sides have been mired in legal battles in court since the case began following a series of I-Team 8 investigations in 2012, including one that identified new questions over whether a number of fees were being charged at rates higher than allowed by state law. The investigations followed an admission from the agency earlier that year that it had been overcharging many drivers for operators licenses since 2007. Those drivers were issued small refunds as part of a separate $30 million settlement.

Since then, outside audits have identified additional overcharges at the agency on everything from excise taxes to reinstatement fees paid by drivers accused of driving without insurance who later proved they did have insurance coverage at the time.

In the wake of those announcements, and appointment of Kent Abernathy as the new commissioner of the BMV, the two sides agreed to try mediation outside of court.

The latest overcharges were identified by independent auditing firm BKD Consulting, which was hired by the BMV in September to audit the agency’s financial structure, including the computer system responsible for the $29 million in excise tax overcharges announced in September 2014.

The BKD audit was scheduled to be completed in October 2015, but will now be complete by May 1, Gov. Mike Pence announced in February.

The results of the full audit will be made public, he said.

Because no agreement was reached, the case will now continue through the courts, Hayes previous told I-Team 8.

Court records show a hearing on a requests for an immediate ruling on the case, known as a motion for summary judgment, is now scheduled for May 18.