The framework has been reached for a settlement concerning 480,000 Volkswagen and Audi vehicles, according to Dee Miles, who heads up our firm’s Consumer Fraud and Commercial Litigation Section. Dee is a member of the exclusive Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) selected to lead the litigation against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche following revelations that the manufacturers cheated to pass emissions tests on many diesel vehicle models manufactured since 2009.
The tentative settlement was agreed to in principle by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the California Air Resources Board and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee with the Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche Defendants. It was announced by Judge Charles R. Breyer, United States District Court for the Northern District of California, at a hearing on April 21, 2016.
The tentative settlement will provide vehicle owners with the option to either participate in a buyback program, or have their vehicle modified to conform to federal and state emissions regulations. In addition, vehicle lessees will have the option to cancel their leases. Both owners and lessees will receive additional compensation in connection with the options above. Specifics as to the amount of compensation and methodology for determining compensation have not been revealed and cannot be discussed at this juncture. In addition, Volkswagen has agreed to establish an environmental remediation fund and will commit other funds to promote green automobile technology.
Judge Breyer reiterated at the hearing that it is “critically important” that the parties maintain confidentiality as they continue to negotiate and iron out all of the details of the proposed settlement. Consumers and other interested parties will have ample opportunity to review the proposed settlement once it is made public. The court will not approve any settlement until there has been an opportunity for public review and comment.
Judge Breyer will follow-up on the progress of the settlement negotiations at the next status conference, which is scheduled for May 19. Also, Judge Breyer set a June 21 deadline for the United States and Volkswagen Defendants to file a consent decree outlining the settlement terms, and for the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee to file a motion for preliminary approval of a class-wide settlement. The hearing on class settlement approval will be held on July 26.
Judge Breyer noted outstanding issues with respect to resolution of claims that are pending related to Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche vehicles with 3.0 liter engines and with governmental fines and penalties. We expect progress toward resolution of these claims over the next several weeks. Claims of auto dealers and Volkswagen investors, and a criminal probe remain ongoing.
The Court has created an official website for the Volkswagen litigation: http://www.cand.uscourts.gov/crb/vwmdl. This website contains the complaint, pretrial orders, and dates for upcoming hearings. You may also contact Archie Grubb, a lawyer in our firm, at 800-898-2034, or via email at Archie.Grubb@BeasleyAllen.com, if you have questions regarding the Volkswagen emissions litigation.
Because of Judge Breyer’s very specific order, however, neither our firm nor any other firm involved in this litigation can discuss any of the specifics of the settlement or anything about the internal matters and ongoing negotiations. This is an ironclad confidential requirement that binds all parties and their respective counsel.
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