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Federal judges to examine Volkswagen litigation


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A panel of federal judges will hear oral arguments Dec. 3 in New Orleans as to whether Volkswagen lawsuits should be centralized before a single federal court for uniform pretrial management. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation generally implements this process of creating a single multidistrict litigation court in order to streamline the discovery process across many cases and to preclude inconsistent pretrial rulings, among other advantages.

Volkswagen lawsuits have continued to be filed across the nation by consumers who purchased so-called “clean diesel” models that turned out not to be clean at all, thus diminishing the resale value and saddling buyers with repair costs to bring the vehicles into compliance with emissions regulations.

A University of West Virginia study in 2014 caught Volkswagen red-handed using a “defeat device” in numerous models to allow the vehicles to automatically reduce pollution emissions during laboratory emissions testing. Once the cars are back on the road, the pollutant levels spike. Volkswagen admitted the evasion Sept. 3.

The German car maker halted the sales of some of its models after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board started their investigations. It is only a matter of time before EPA refers this matter to the U.S. Justice Department for enforcement action.

The vehicles and model years in question are as follows:

  • Jetta (MY 2009 – 2015)
  • Jetta Sportwagen (MY 2009-2014)
  • Beetle (MY 2012 – 2015)
  • Beetle Convertible (MY 2012-2015)
  • Audi A3 (MY 2010 – 2015)
  • Golf (MY 2010 – 2015)
  • Golf Sportwagen (MY 2015)
  • Passat (MY 2012-2015)

Plaintiffs who call for the consolidation of Volkswagen lawsuits differ on which court should have jurisdiction; some of these are class action lawsuits. One plaintiff, for instance, suggested the Southern District of Texas would be ideal. The Sept. 27 brief in support of centralization in Texas explained how Volkswagen benefitted financially from its alleged deception.

“Volkswagen charged a substantial premium for the Subject Vehicles,” the brief reads. “For example, for the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta, the base S model has a starting MSRP of $18,780. The base TDI S ‘Clean Diesel,’ however, has a starting MSRP of $21,640, a price premium of $2,860. The ‘Clean Diesel’ premium for the highest trim Jetta model is substantially higher: The highest level gas Jetta SE has a starting MSRP of $20,095, while the ‘Clean Diesel’ TDI SEL MSRP is $26,410, a staggering $6,315 premium.”

And the flip side of Volkswagen’s gain shows the buyer’s loss, as the brief explains.

“Had Plaintiff and Class members been aware at the time they acquired their Subject Vehicles of the ‘defeat device’ and its ability to allow the Subject Vehicles to emit up to 40 times the allowed levels of pollutants, Plaintiff and Class members would not have purchased or leased said vehicles, or would have paid substantially less than they did,” the plaintiff’s brief reads. “Furthermore, if and when Volkswagen makes the required alterations to bring the Subject Vehicles into EPA and Clean Air Act compliance, Plaintiff and Class members will be required to spend additional sums of money on fuel and will no longer enjoy the performance characteristics which existed in their Subject Vehicles when purchased. Additionally, the Subject Vehicles will necessarily be worth less in the marketplace because of their diminished performance and efficiency – the consequence of bringing the vehicles into regulatory compliance.”

Anyone who owns one of the Volkswagen models equipped with a defeat device may be entitled to compensation. One way to determine whether compensation is in order is to call 1- 866-LAW-2400 to get a free consultation from one of the Volkswagen attorneys at Reich & Binstock.

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