A California federal judge has given final approval to the $15 billion settlement in the Volkswagen Diesel litigation. $10 Billion is attributable to owners of Volkswagen diesel vehicles in the multidistrict litigation (MDL). This settlement involves the company’s emissions cheating scandal. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said the settlement was reasonable and the result of the “tireless efforts” of the parties and unusual expediency by the government agencies. The settlement, preliminarily approved in July, sets aside $10 billion for the 475,000 drivers who will receive compensation of up to $10,000 per vehicle and can individually decide whether to sell their cars back to VW or have the company fix their emissions output. The settlement also includes an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to invest $4.7 billion in environmental remediation and zero-emission technology development.

Also before the judge were consent decrees from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), representing the EPA’s $4.6 billion settlement and a partial consent decree ordering VW to pay $86 million to the California Attorney General’s Office. The settlement before the judge had the support of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee Chair Elizabeth Cabraser of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP said the settlement “isn’t the most perfect thing,” but adding that it was the result of compromises between the class and VW, and could realistically function. The parties “set the land-speed record” for turning around the largest automotive settlement in U.S. history in about a year. Speedy approval of the settlement was vital to reducing further harm to the environment and to the value of the customer’s cars. Elizabeth said many of the objections the court heard at the hearing – about the mileage estimates, about extra compensation for additional options purchased with cars and about the formula for eligible sellers – were considered during negotiations, but that the interests of streamlining the process won out. She pointed out that consumers had options. They could choose to either sell their cars back to VW or get an emissions fix on their vehicles, and they could decide what to do with the additional cash payment of $5,100 to approximately $10,000 per vehicle, which was meant to cover costs like taxes and individual attorneys’ fees.

Now that this this portion of the settlement for the VW 2.0 Liter diesel engines has been approved, there remains the case against VW for the VW 3.o Liter engines and the alleged supplier of the cheat device, Bosch. The PSC will continue discovery on these claims until such time as there can be a settlement or trial. We will continue to report the progress of the entire VW litigation.

The Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee is chaired by Elizabeth J. Cabraser of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP. Dee Miles from our firm is on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and he believes this is a very good settlement. The multidistrict litigation is In re: Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, case number 3:15-md-02672, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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