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VW Group Litigation Claim Passes Major Hurdle

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An important decision has recently been in the UK’s Volkswagen group litigation claim that is good news for the 91,000 claimants who are seeking compensation from the German motor manufacturer.

The High Court in London has now ruled that Volkswagen did fit special software known as a ‘defeat device’ to a wide range of diesel powered vehicles. Such software allowed the engines to reduce its NOx emissions when it detected that the vehicle was being tested in line with EU emissions regulations. As soon as the vehicles so fitted returned to normal driving conditions on public roads, the defeat device was turned disabled resulting in actual, ‘real world’ NOx levels that were above the levels permitted.

The world’s largest car manufacturer, producing in excess of 10 million vehicles each year for markets spanning the globe, Volkswagen Group is alledged to have fitted defeat device software across all its major sub-brands, including VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda.

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The High Court judgement on the case, Crossley & ors v Volkswagen Atkiengesellschaft & ors, which covered two of the trial’s preliminary issues, said:

A software function which enables a vehicle to pass the test because (artificially) it operates the vehicle in a way which is bound to pass the test and in which it does not operate on the road is a fundamental subversion of the test and the objective behind it...in other words, it destroys the utility of the test because it makes it impossible for performance under it to be the approximation of normal driving conditions and performance which it is intended to be.”

Judge Mr Justice added that he was 'far from alone in this conclusion', citing the German Federal Motor Transport Authority and ‘numerous courts’. The next step for the court will be to determine the losses payable to the UK claimants, who are being represented by Leigh Day and Slater & Gordon. In commenting on the decision, a spokesperson for Leigh Day said:

We hope that Volkswagen accepts the court’s decision and we urge them to now do the right thing and put their customers first by entering into settlement negotiations so that our clients are not forced to drag VW through the courts and be faced with further years of litigation to determine their losses.”

Following the High Court decision, a Volkswagen Group spokesperson said that the company would now ‘carefully consider’ an appeal. They added:

While Volkswagen is disappointed that the outcome was not in our favour, the judgment relates only to preliminary issues. To be clear, today’s decision does not determine liability or any issues of causation or loss for any of the causes of action claimed. These remain to be determined by the court as the case continues. Volkswagen remains confident in our case that we are not liable to the claimants as alleged and the claimants did not suffer any loss. We will continue to defend our position robustly. Nothing in this decision today changes this. We look forward to making progress with defending the remainder of the case…Volkswagen is considering carefully the grounds on which it may seek to appeal today’s decision."

 

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