Twelve Indiana auto dealership groups this summer agreed to collectively pay about $13.5 million to settle allegations they charged illegal document fees to an estimated 169,375 consumers.
The deal reached in Benosky v. Butler Motors, the consolidated case for 14 class-action lawsuits against Indiana dealerships, comes after the Indiana Supreme Court in March refused the dealerships' request to dismiss the case. The Indiana Court of Appeals in November 2021 had agreed with Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch that the consumers' lawsuit could proceed.
The settling defendants—Butler Motors Inc.; D-Patrick Inc.; Dorsett Auto Sales Inc.; Ed Martin 236 Inc.; Terry Lee Companies Inc.; Bill Estes Automotive Holdings Inc.; Twin City Dodge Inc.; Andy Mohr Automotive Group Inc.; Circle Buick-GMC Inc.; Beck Automotive Group Inc., Lockhart Automotive Group Inc. and Rohr Indy Motors Inc.—admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. They said they made the decision "solely to compromise and settle the claims ... and to avoid the expense and uncertainty of continued litigation."
Two cases involving the Hubler Automotive Group were also part of the appellate court decision. Neither was addressed in the settlement, and that litigation remains open.
Rohr Indy parent Rohrman Automotive Group, of Layfayette, Ind., ranks No. 47 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 20,024 new vehicles in 2021.
The decision and settlement are reminders that Indiana retailers could still face exposure to litigation over document fee practices despite a 2019 Indiana law defining fees of $200 or less as fair if certain conditions were met. The fees from the dealerships in the Benosky case all were less than $200, and the defendants had unsuccessfully argued all fees of $200 or less were legal.