New Jersey filed suit on Feb. 5, 2016, against Volkswagen AG and its subsidiaries Audi and Porsche for carrying out a “massive fraud” against consumers by using software in millions of diesel vehicles to cheat federal emissions tests and allowing it to increase sales by falsely touting environmentally friendly cars. New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman vilified the automaker’s decade-long emissions scheme, calling Volkswagen’s use of so-called “defeat devices” – which only control a vehicle’s emission of harmful nitrogen oxides when an emissions test is being run – “one of the largest frauds in the history of the automobile industry.” When the defeat devices were not activated during regular driving, the affected vehicles would emit up to 40 times the legal amount of nitrogen oxide.
New Jersey in the complaint is seeking maximum penalties against Volkswagen for violations of New Jersey’s Air Pollution Control Act and Consumer Fraud Act. The complaint also asks for direct restitution to consumers who have been “materially harmed” by the company’s misconduct. It’s currently estimated that about 17,400 Volkswagen vehicles equipped with the defeat devices are registered in New Jersey.
New Jersey’s suit came only weeks after New Mexico sued Volkswagen over the same emissions fraud, with that state’s Attorney General Hector Balderas noting that the U.S. government’s own pending suit over the scandal could result in penalties of up to $45 billion. Other governments, including Sweden, Germany and Spain, have launched criminal investigations, and South Korea said recently it will file criminal charges against Volkswagen for what it called “insufficient” recall plans by the automaker.
Volkswagen has been in “hot water” since September, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it had discovered the automaker had equipped about 11 million 2.0-liter diesel engine cars with software specifically designed to evade federal emissions standards in violation of the Clean Air Act. The company’s subsequent admission of using the defeat device has prompted extensive recalls and widespread consumer and dealer litigation.
John Hoffman and assistant Attorney General David Apy are representing New Jersey, while Christopher S. Porrino, Richard F. Ricci, Gavin J. Rooney and Peter Slocum, lawyers with Lowenstein Sandler LLP, are acting as special counsel. The case is in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Hudson County.
Beasley Allen lawyers Dee Miles, Clay Barnett and Archie Grubb are also handling claims against VW on behalf of consumers, dealers and governmental Plaintiffs. You can contact them at 800-898-2034 or by email at Dee.Miles@beasleyallen.com, Clay.Barnett@beasleyallen.com or Archie.Grubb@beasleyallen.com.
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