A law firm with a track record of suing automakers has already filed three class-action lawsuits against the German automaker related to its emissions-cheating scandal and says a fourth one is on the way. The lawsuits, filed by national firm Hagens Berman, accuse Volkswagen Group of America of fraudulent concealment, false advertising, and violations of federal and state laws.
Plaintiffs in all 50 states have joined the class-action suits, according to the firm. A spokesperson says there has been "an unprecedented response" since the first lawsuit was filed within hours of an announcement from federal regulators last Friday.
Diesel owners paid thousands more for their vehicles instead of their gasoline-powered counterparts because Volkswagen's diesel engines ostensibly offered both torque and fuel economy. Now affected car owners are faced with a double-whammy – the value of their cars has diminished with the news and the purported software fix that brings the cars in emissions compliance will likely lower their performance and gas mileage.
The lawsuits accuse Volkswagen Group of America of fraudulent concealment, false advertising, and violations of federal and state laws.
"Hundreds of thousands of consumers put their trust in VW when they looked to its 'Clean Diesel' line for an efficient, environmentally conscious diesel option," said Steve Berman, managing partner. "But for years, VW cheated the system. Its TDI line of fast but 'good-for-the-environment' cars seemed too good to be true, and they were."
In its latest court filing, Hagens Berman lawyers said that car owners believed their vehicles were in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards and that the cars would retain their operating characteristics throughout their useful lives.
Another firm, Girard Gibbs, has also filed a lawsuit over the diesel deception. "These Volkswagen vehicles should never have been sold, and certainly should not have spent the past six years on American roads polluting our air," said Eric Gibbs, the lead attorney. "Not only does this kind of fraud harm consumers and the environment, it negatively impacts competition, which is what drives our free-market system. People should not stand for it."
Volkswagen has acknowledged that roughly 482,000 cars in the United States and approximately 11 million worldwide contained software algorithms that detected when the vehicles were undergoing emissions testing. If detected, cars changed their fuel-mapping to confirm to environmental regulations. But back in real-world driving, the cars spewed pollution at as much as 40 times allowable thresholds.
Hagens Berman was the lead counsel in a $1.6 billion settlement with Toyota in 2013 that stemmed from faulty accelerators. The firm also headed a lawsuit from vehicle owners against Hyundai and Kia, which had both exaggerated the fuel-economy numbers on several of their models. That lawsuit is ongoing.