U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer has granted preliminary approval to the settlement reached June 27 between Volkswagen and owners of about half a million diesel-powered VW vehicles over the German automaker’s emissions cheat. The settlement is expected to cost VW about $14.7 billion, including $10.033 billion set aside to cover vehicle buybacks and fixes, $2 billion for “green energy” funds and $2.7 billion to offset diesel emissions. Judge Breyer is overseeing the consolidated litigation. The final approval hearing is set for Oct. 18, 2016.

Beasley Allen is one of the law firms chosen to litigate the Volkswagen case on behalf of plaintiffs harmed by the automaker’s emissions cheat. Beasley Allen Principal W. Daniel “Dee” Miles, III, who heads the firm’s Consumer Fraud section, was one of the 22 attorneys appointed by Judge Breyer to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee. Miles and the other attorneys on that committee have now been appointed as Class Counsel for this litigation as it proceeds. This is believed to be the largest automobile settlement in history.

“This historical settlement, which has just been granted preliminarily approved by the court, is now the new benchmark for consumer class actions in terms of meaningful relief for consumers, the government, and, specific to this case, the global environment,” Miles said. “While there remains more work to do with regard to the 3.0 liter engines, the fact that the parties and the government were able to achieve this multi-faceted settlement in less than 10 months is quite remarkable.”

The settlement will compensate owners of some 482,000 model-year 2009-2015 VW and Audi vehicles with two-liter diesel engines. Under the agreement, vehicle owners would be allowed to choose whether to sell their vehicle back to VW or have it repaired. According to the terms of the settlement agreement, cash compensation offered to each car owner could range between $5,100 and $10,000 and total compensation will depend on the cars’ value before Volkswagen admitted to the emissions cheat.

Volkswagen installed the emissions cheat on 10.5 million diesel-powered vehicles worldwide, including the half million U.S. vehicles — all while promoting “clean diesel” as an alternative to electric and hybrid vehicles. The defeat device enables the vehicles to detect the special parameters of an emissions drive cycle, which prompts the vehicle’s computer to turn on emissions controls, thereby making the vehicle fully compliant with EPA rules during testing.

The software also senses steering, throttle, and other variables unique to real-time driving, which cues the computer to turn off emissions controls, allowing the vehicle to release extremely high levels of nitrogen-oxide emissions. These toxic emissions are up to 40 times higher than federal limits allow.

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