Volkswagen Settles Emissions Lawsuit in U.S.

Source: By Reuters • Posted: Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Volkswagen had asked to delay the trial, but a judge dismissed the request. Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Volkswagen’s unit in the United States has settled a lawsuit brought by a North Carolina man whose car was equipped with software that concealed excess diesel emissions. The case would have been the first involving the automaker’s emissions scandal to go to trial.

The settlement, on Friday, came days after a Virginia state court judge, Bruce D. White, rejected a request by the German automaker to delay the trial because of what it called “inflammatory” comments made by a lawyer representing car owners.

Judge White approved the case’s dismissal on Friday. Michael Melkersen, a Virginia lawyer who represented David Doar, the North Carolina man, along with more than 300 other Volkswagen diesel owners in the United States, said the case had been dismissed by agreement. But he declined to discuss the terms. A Volkswagen spokeswoman declined to comment.

The first trial in the United States could have resulted in testimony by current and former company executives and additional negative publicity. Mr. Doar had sued Volkswagen over fraud and unfair trade practice claims and sought punitive damages as well as compensation for the vehicle.

Mr. Doar bought a 2014 diesel Jetta for $23,700 and had rejected a settlement offer from a 2016 class-action agreement that would have reimbursed him for the value of the vehicle. He had sought $725,000 plus lawyers’ fees in legal filings. The next trial is set for June 4 involving another diesel owner.

Volkswagen said early this month that its case has been prejudiced by recent publicity about how the company financed research, in which monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust.

The German carmaker is being sued by some consumers after it admitted in September 2015 to cheating on diesel emissions tests, setting off the biggest business crisis in its history.

Nearly all American owners of affected cars agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 that addressed claims from them, environmental regulators, states and dealers. The settlement included buyback offers and additional compensation for about 500,000 owners.

About 2,000 owners, however, opted out and most are pursuing court claims seeking additional compensation.