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Federal Judge Approves $15 Billion Settlement in VW Emissions Scandal

NHTSA Opens Safety Investigations into Volkswagen and Audi Models

A federal judge in San Francisco has approved a nearly $15-billion court settlement of most claims against German automaker Volkswagen for its emissions-cheating scandal. According to a KABC news report, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer signed the order October 25, 2016, approving the largest auto scandal settlement in U.S. history. Last year, Volkswagen admitted that it rigged about 475,000 VWs and Audis with 2-liter four-cylinder diesel engines to cheat on emissions tests.

Under the settlement, owners of the affected cars have until September 1, 2018, to decide whether they want to have the car repaired or repurchased. Volkswagen could start buying back the cars as early as next month if owners start turning in claims. It is anticipated that most owners will sell their cars back to the automaker because the vehicles don’t meet U.S. emissions standards. So, basically they have no resale value. In addition to having their cars bought back, owners can also get cash payments ranging from $5,100 to $10,000.

Deal Takes Polluting Cars Off Roads

The judge called the settlement “fair, reasonable and adequate.” Under the deal, VW will pay attorneys fees and costs including up to $324 million in fees and $8.5 million in out-of-pocket costs. It must be noted, however, that the settlement does not cover the larger 3-liter, six-cylinder diesel vehicles, which also cheated on the tests. In addition, the agreement does not end claims against parts supplier Robert Bosch, which designed the cheating software. The judge said high in the order of priority is to get these polluting cars off the road as soon as possible.

These vehicles emit 40 times the legally allowed amount of nitrogen oxide, a gas that is known to cause respiratory problems in humans. This settlement has still been objected to by some owners who have said they should get the full purchase price of their vehicles. One Audi owner from San Francisco told the judge that VW “played owners for fools” and that the settlement simply isn’t sufficient to compensate them for what it really is – fraud. The company is still facing potentially billions of dollars more in fines and possible criminal charges.

Justice for Consumers

As consumer attorneys, we are pleased with this landmark judgment that succeeds in not just removing polluting vehicles off our roadways, but holds VW accountable for fraud. We also hope the company faces criminal charges for its fraudulent actions. We believe in the power of class action lawsuits, which gives ordinary men and women – consumers – the power to stand up and fight against large corporations. Without this provision in our civil justice system, this would be impossible. As California class action lawyers, we are proud to be a part of this noble fight and provide wronged consumers the power and resources they need to hold wrongdoers accountable.

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