U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco, Judge Charles Breyer, is presiding over the multi-district litigation against Volkswagen and others arising out of the diesel emissions cheating scandal, including the class action lawsuit filed by Starn O’Toole Marcus & Fisher on behalf of Hawaii consumers. Judge Breyer has appointed California attorney Elizabeth Cabraser as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the litigation, an appointment strongly endorsed by the Starn O’Toole firm. Judge Breyer also appointed a Plaintiff Steering Committee (PSC) made up of extremely well-qualified attorneys from diverse jurisdictions, each with strong multi-district litigation experience. They will have the authority to negotiate with VW’s counsel and otherwise prosecute the civil litigation. “We are happy to have a strong working relationship with Ms. Cabraser and the PSC,” said Hawaii attorney Judith Pavey.
A consolidated class action complaint was filed on February 15, 2016 by Ms. Cabraser and the PSC on behalf of approximately 200 representative consumers from across the country. The complaint is intended to be the basis of the litigation of the multi-district claims, and of discussions for resolution by settlement.
In a hearing on February 25, which was attended by telephone by Ms. Pavey and co-counsel Kyle Smith, Judge Breyer made clear his belief in the importance of a speedy but equitable resolution of the civil claims that gets the polluting vehicles off the road as soon as possible and provides fair, deserved compensation to the affected consumers. At a hearing on January 20, in response to Judge Breyer’s questioning, lawyers for VW advised that VW engineers are “working around the clock” to identify a “fix” to the emissions issue, and that VW believes it will happen in a matter of months.
On February 25 Judge Breyer gave Volkswagen until March 24, 2016 to present an acceptable fix to bring nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. into compliance with clean air laws or to get those vehicles off the roads. He also instructed VW top ownership and management to update the Court appointed settlement master, Robert Mueller, on the status of negotiations toward a settlement with affected owners. Mr. Meuller is a Washington lawyer, and former director of the FBI. Judge Breyer appointed Mr. Mueller to “use his considerable experience and judgment to facilitate settlement discussions among the various parties in these complex matters.”
The numerous lawsuits against the German automaker are the result of the discovery and subsequent admission that Volkswagen installed sophisticated software in various diesel vehicles to circumvent tough U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards. In January, the US Justice Department sued VW for up to $46 billion for violating US environmental laws. There is also an ongoing criminal probe into the company’s actions.
The following diesel vehicles have been identified as affected by the emissions scandal:
- Audi A3 (2010-2015)
- Audi A6 Quattro (2014-2016)
- Audi A7 Quattro (2014-2016)
- Audi A8/A8L (2014-2016)
- Audi Q5 (2014-2016)
- Audi Q7 (2009-2016)
- Porsche Cayenne (2014-2016)
- Volkswagen Beetle, Beetle Convertible (2013-2015)
- Volkswagen Golf (2010-2015)
- Volkswagen Golf SportWagen (2015)
- Volkswagen Jetta, Jetta SportWagen (2009-2014)
- Volkswagen Passat (2012-2015)
- Volkswagen Touareg (2009-2016)