What to Know About the Class Action Lawsuit Against Volkswagen for Diesel Emissions
The ongoing issue of Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal has resulted in massive devaluation of the company’s value, the resignation of its chairman as well as other members of company leadership, and class action lawsuits. The latter is just the latest step in the saga that is bound to continue for years to come. Worldwide, more than 11 million Volkswagen and Audi vehicles are thought to be involved. VW has admitted to manipulating its emissions systems in its 2.0-liter turbo diesel engines so they would pass EPA and CARB tests. The class action lawsuit (one of many to be filed) seeks compensation for owners affected by the German automaker’s actions. RELATED: See More Photos of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI
Andre M. Mura, a litigator with Gerard Gibbs, answered questions for BoldRide about the class-action lawsuit that has been filed in Northern California federal court against Volkswagen for its diesel emissions scandal.
Q. Girard Gibbs has filed a class action lawsuit alleging Volkswagen defrauded consumers when it marketed and sold “clean diesel” vehicles. What relief is your law firm suing for?
A. Consumers were promised a “clean diesel” vehicle with certain fuel efficiency and performance. Our lawsuit seeks to enforce that promise and to compensate consumers for any losses. – Andre Mura, Girard Gibbs LLP
Q. For people unfamiliar with how it works, can you give us a quick primer on what a class action lawsuit is?
A. In a class action lawsuit, one plaintiff or a small group of plaintiffs act as class representatives and represent the interests of a larger group of people experiencing the same problem as the plaintiffs. Class representatives bring a case against a company on behalf of a class of people, and demand a certain type of relief or compensation to be shared by the members of the class.
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Q. Why join a class action lawsuit on this issue? Won’t it diminish possible financial compensation once the attorney fees and expenses are deducted? States attorney generals have taken up the call to action. Isn’t their intervention more effective?
A. No, a class action lawsuit is an effective means of securing a remedy for large groups of consumers who were wronged in a similar way. Any settlement or request for attorney’s fees is carefully examined by the court, to ensure that the class members are being fairly compensated under the circumstances.
Any action by state attorneys’ general is a welcome development. Rather than work at cross-purposes, class action lawsuits and government investigations often proceed at the same time, and together can achieve an effective resolution for consumers.
Q. Who can be considered members of the class? Is it just VW owners or could it potentially be those affected by the high levels of particulates released by the diesel engines?
A. The lawsuit seeks monetary relief for consumer harm, not environmental harm, but many people contacting us feel cheated because the low emissions was part of the reason they decided to purchase the vehicle. The emissions regulations were passed for a reason and we have every reason to believe the EPA and state governments are going to enforce them. Our focus, however, is consumer fraud—our clients did not get what they were promised.
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Q. How long of a process do you anticipate this being? Volkswagen of America’s (now-former) CEO has said the company will pay for its dishonesty. Do statements like that accelerate the process at all or have no impact?
A. These statements are a welcome development, but it is too soon to tell whether Volkswagen will make good on that promise. We stand ready to make sure that Volkswagen fulfills that promise.
Q. Does being part of a class action lawsuit mean you can’t sell your VW or Audi until the lawsuit is settled?
A. Volkswagen has announced that it is not selling these vehicles, and it is unclear who would want to buy one of these vehicles on a secondary market, given that the EPA has announced the cars exceed emissions standards. That said, if you are part of a class action lawsuit, you should speak with your attorney about your rights before selling your vehicle.
Q. Say you’re an owner of a 2010 Jetta TDI. Volkswagen comes up with a monetary offer to reimburse you for lost value, performance and fuel efficiency. If you accept the reimbursement, does it preclude you from being a part of the class action?
A. If any such offer is made, and if you are part of a class action, you will be represented by an attorney who can examine whether Volkswagen’s offer is a good deal. If this offer is part of a class action settlement, you will have the right to accept the relief or “opt out” and pursue the relief on you own. If it is an individual offer, then whether you can participate in other litigation will depend on the terms of the release.