Hillsborough County, Fla., commissioners voted yesterday unanimously to hire the Beasley Allen Law Firm and take legal action against Volkswagen (VW) for violating the county’s anti-air-pollution laws with its emissions cheat device, which allows more than a thousand VW vehicles in the Tampa area to run without emissions controls. The county’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Middle District Court of Florida in Tampa and will soon become part of the consolidated class action.

The County’s Environmental Protection Commission spearheaded the efforts to hire Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis and Miles, P.C., to represent the county in a lawsuit against the German automaker primarily because Beasley Allen is among a very select group of law firms chosen to form the plaintiffs’ steering committee (PSC), which will litigate VW lawsuits consolidated in federal court in San Francisco. Local Tampa firms Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort and Thomas L. Young, P.A., were also chosen to assist with the litigation in Tampa

According to the Tampa Tribune, Hillsborough County is the only county in Florida with an environmental law that prohibits tampering with emissions control equipment in automobiles. The unique ordinance provides for penalties against manufacturers, installers, or sellers of defeat devices of up to $5,000 per violation.

VW has admitted installing codes in about 11 million of its diesel-powered vehicles that enable them to emit up 10 to 40 times the legal level of nitrogen oxide and other noxious gases during normal operation, and then turn on emissions controls when the vehicles are undergoing emissions tests.

This emissions cheat device affects more than 600,000 VW vehicles in the U.S., many of which have been on U.S. roads since 2009. There are currently about 1,187 of the vehicles in Hillsborough County, according to the Environmental Protection Commission’s calculations.

Beasley Allen Principal W. Daniel “Dee” Miles, III, who is head of Beasley Allen’s Consumer Fraud section and who is also serving on the Volkswagen PSC in San Francisco, Calif., believes this litigation highlights a disturbing trend among auto industry giants where lying is simply business as usual.

“This VW case is one of the worst cases of fraud on the public we have ever seen in the automobile industry’s history,” Miles said. “It is a privilege to help lead the prosecution of these claims against VW with some of this country’s most talented lawyers and an honor to represent the interest of Hillsborough County.”

The complaint is filed as The Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Florida v. Volkwagen AG et al, 8:16-00-721-T23TBM. Dee Miles, Archie Grubb and Clay Barnett are prosecuting the case for the firm.

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