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Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Class Action Lawsuit Claims Automaker Defrauded Consumers

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Another class action lawsuit has been filed over Volkswagen diesel vehicles equipped with software designed to cheat federal emissions tests, this time by a Pennsylvania couple who says the German automaker committed fraud against hundreds of thousands of consumers. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Ed and Jody Hendricks on December 1, seeking class action status to represent all those who bought or leased Volkswagen TDI “clean diesel” vehicles both in the state and nationwide.

According to the allegations raised in the lawsuit, the couple bought a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with a 2.0 Liter Turbo Diesel engine in August 2011, which was later listed as one of nearly 500,000 vehicles in the U.S. equipped with “defeat device” software.

The case is one of a growing number of individual and class action complaints filed nationwide since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forced Volkswagen to recall TDI diesel vehicles that contained a software program known as a “defeat device,” which was designed to detect when the vehicle was undergoing emissions testing and artificially reduced the levels of pollution emitted. However, after the testing was over, the vehicles marketed as “Clean Diesel” released up to 40 times the amount of nitrogen oxide and other air pollutants allowed by U.S. law.

The recall affected about 480,000 VW Beetle, VW Golf, VW Jetta, VW Passat and Audi A3 vehicles sold in various model years between 2009 and 2015, and about 11 million vehicles worldwide. On November 2, the EPA expanded that recall to include another 10,000 Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles, including the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quatro, A8, A8L, and Q5.

“As a result of Volkswagen’s unfair, deceptive and/or fraudulent misrepresentations or omissions, hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting consumers purchased or leased — at a premium — a Class Vehicle that did not comply with federal emissions requirements,” the lawsuit states. “Had Plaintiffs and other Class members known that Volkswagen fraudulently employed a ‘defeat device’ to fake EPA emissions test results at the time they purchased or leased a Class Vehicle, they would not have purchased or leased those vehicles, or would have paid substantially less for the vehicles than they did.”

Today, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hear oral arguments on whether those Volkswagen recall lawsuits should be centralized and consolidated before one judge for pretrial proceedings as part of a federal multidistrict litigation.

In late September, a group of plaintiffs filed a request to centralize the litigation over the Volkswagen TDI “Clean Diesel” emissions fraud, asking that cases be centralized to reduce the risk of duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting rulings from different Courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the judicial system.

In October, Volkswagen indicated that it supports centralizing the cases as part of an MDL in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. However, a number of competing venues have been proposed by different plaintiffs involved in the litigation.

In addition to civil liability, the EPA has said that Volkswagen could face as much as $18 billion in fines for violating Clean Air Act emissions testing laws.

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