Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has officially approved the settlement agreement involving claims related to a Volkswagen (VW) emissions cheat scandal. Judge Breyer indicated Oct. 18 that he found the settlement favorable and would likely approve the agreement. The settlement will total nearly $15 billion, believed to be the largest automobile settlement in history.

Judge Breyer gave preliminary approval to the settlement June 27. The settlement will resolve claims between VW and owners of about half a million diesel-powered model-year 2009-2015 VW and Audi vehicles with two-liter diesel engines.

Beasley Allen was 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 were subsequently appointed as Class Counsel for this litigation as it proceeds.

“This is a great settlement for the 2.0 liter VW car owners and with the court’s help, this settlement was achieved with remarkable speed,” Miles said. “We are continuing our efforts to achieve a similar result for the 3.0 liter VW car owners and hope to announce another settlement soon.”

Volkswagen admitted to installing a “cheat” device on certain of its vehicles, while promoting them as “clean diesel” alternatives to hybrid and electric 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.

Owners of affected vehicles will allow owner to choose between a free fix and a payout of $5,100 to $9,852, or a buyback and restitution of between about $12,000-44,000. The settlement also includes $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and $2 billion for clean-emissions infrastructure. VW must still gain approval for its fix from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In his remarks, Judge Breyer said the court is “strongly inclined to approve the settlement,” and praised the work of the attorneys who worked to bring the matter to resolution with the urgency he desired.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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