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Volkswagen Clean Diesel Class Action Lawsuit

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Volkswagen Group of America

This class action alleges that the Volkswagen Group of America built devices into certain of their cars that deliberately provided false readings when the cars were tested for emissions. The Volkswagen Group of America makes and sells vehicles under the brand names Volkswagen and Audi throughout the US.

The class for this class action includes all persons in the US who, from 2009 through the present, purchased or leased:

  • 2009-2015 VW Jetta;
  • 2009-2015 VW Beetle;
  • 2009-2015 VW Golf;
  • 2014-2015 VW Passat; and
  • 2009-2015 Audi A3.

There is also a subclass of persons from Pennsylvania who purchased or leased these vehicles.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets legal standards for emissions that vehicles in the US must meet, under the Clean Air Act. Among the emissions regulated by the EPA are nitrogen oxides, or NOx, measured during normal operation. NOx can be dangerous to human health and have been linked with ozone depletion and other negative environmental effects. The EPA regulate these and other emissions to protect human health and the environment.

Every vehicle sold in the US must have a certificate indicating that its emissions meet federal requirements. A “defeat device” is an auxiliary emission control device that that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system under conditions of normal vehicle operation and use. It is illegal to manufacture or sell such devices or install them in vehicles. Vehicles with such devices cannot be certified under federal emissions requirements and so cannot be sold in the US.

The complaint alleges that, from at least 2009 through the present, Volkswagen has marketed certain diesel vehicles as environmentally-friendly “CleanDiesels”. It claims that Volkswagen has touted its CleanDiesel vehicles as not only complying with federal standards, but as possessing a superior combination of low-environmental impact and performance. These characteristics, it says, were used to justify higher prices for these vehicles.

However, according to the complaint, Volkswagen’s claims of low-environmental impact, performance, and even minimum compliance with federal emissions standards were false. On September 18, 2015, the complaint alleges, the EPA issued a Notice of Violation to Volkswagen declaring that Volkswagen “manufactured and installed defeat devices in certain model year 2009 through 2015 diesel light-weight duty vehicles” and that the defeat devices bypass, defeat, or render inoperative parts of the vehicles’ emission control system that exist to comply with Clean Air Act emission standards.

In other words, the complaint claims, Volkswagen installed software that sensed when the vehicle was being tested for emissions standards and caused a fraudulent, compliant result to be registered. In reality, it says, the vehicles were not compliant with EPA emissions standards at all. It claims that the vehicles’ emissions of NOx are actually up to forty times higher than the EPA allows.

According to the complaint, then, the company has violated the Clean Air Act and sold the cars fraudulently and deceptively, violating consumer protection laws as well. 

Current Case Status: 

Volkswagen has not responded to this lawsuit.  This case will take some time.  Most likely, many suits will be filed and all of them will be consolidated in one court and that court will establish a leadership structure for at least discovery.  We will check back in December, 2015 to update this matter.

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