Law360 reviewed the landscape of 2016 consumer protection litigation, focusing in part on the Volkswagen diesel emissions fraud scandal and the more than 500 lawsuits filed on behalf of affected Volkswagen Porsche and Audi owners nationwide harmed by the company’s installation of scamming software designed to bypass federal emissions standards in its 2.0-liter diesel vehicles.
In December 2015, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation moved the U.S. lawsuits to California federal court. Ever since the discovery of the software-driven fraud in mid-2015, the automaker has been flooded with litigation and government fraud investigations worldwide.
Lieff Cabraser partner Jonathan Selbin spoke with Law360 about the case, noting it illustrates that economic loss class actions aren’t just trumped-up, “no injury” claims, an idea often put forth by manufacturers and defense attorneys.
“They pretend that no corporation would ever knowingly act to defraud its consumers or deprive them of their bargain,” Selbin said. “The significance of VW, to me, is it belies all that in terms everyone can plainly understand. Because the truth is that some companies do sometimes knowingly lie to their consumers about the products they sell them, and class actions are the only way to keep them honest in a system like ours that lacks real government oversight with teeth on the front end,” Selbin concluded.
Volkswagen has admitted to using the software in about 11 million vehicles globally, and two company CEOs have stepped down since the scandal broke. Thousands of VW drivers have hit the automaker with proposed group lawsuits worldwide, many of which seek damages for significant loss of value of their cars.
As Law360 noted, the carmaker said on December 10, 2015 that it installed the software because it initially concluded that meeting the U.S.’ strict emissions standards was “impossible.”