September 21, 2015 – Pritzker Levine LLP announced today that it has filed a class action complaint against Volkswagen following the company’s recent and shocking admission that it had installed illegal software in its 2009-2015 “clean diesel” Jetta, Passat, Golf, Beetle and Audi A3 vehicles to evade federal and state emissions testing. The illegal software switches pollution controls on only during emissions testing, and off during normal driving, making these “clean diesel” cars not clean at all. In fact, when actually driven, these vehicles can emit 10 to 40 times the lawful amount of nitrogen oxide – a pollutant that contributes to smog and serious health problems. About 500,000 Volkswagen and Audi 2.0 diesel engine cars may be infected, including the following models:
- 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta (including the Jetta SportWagen)
- 2010-2015 Volkswagen Golf (including the Golf SportWagen)
- 2010-2015 Audi A3
- 2012-2015 Volkswagen Beetle and Beetle Convertible
- 2012-2015 Volkswagen Passat
The class action lawsuit filed on behalf of consumers nationwide alleges that “Volkswagen’s conduct violates federal law, California’s consumer protection statutes and common law, and is a breach of applicable warranties.” The suit seeks actual and punitive damages, a refund or repair of the vehicle, and asks the court to order Volkswagen to stop this deceptive conduct.
Volkswagen’s deception came to light following an investigation by federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CARB). CARB and the EPA were first alerted to the emissions problems with these vehicles by a study published by West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines & Emissions. When CARB and the EPA began to investigate the issue in May 2014, Volkswagen told the agencies that the increased emissions were the result of technical issues or unexpected conditions.
The EPA described its investigation and initial conclusions in a Notice of Violation issued to Volkswagen on September 18, 2015. There, it stated that the affected Volkswagen diesel vehicles contain software in the electronic control module (ECM) that sense when the vehicle was being testing for emissions compliance. To determine whether the vehicle was undergoing emissions testing, the software would detect changes in the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, the duration of engine operation, and barometric pressure. The EPA’s notice of violation describes that “[a]t all other times during normal operation, the ‘switch’ was activated and the vehicle ECM software ran a separate ‘road calibration’ [program] which reduced the effectiveness of the emission control system.”
According to Cynthia Giles, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance, a car maker’s use of a defeat device “to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health.”
About Pritzker Levine
Pritzker Levine LLP is national litigation firm with offices in California and New York. The firm serves corporate clients, public entities, pension funds, small businesses, nonprofit groups, labor unions, whistleblowers and injured persons in cases involving antitrust violations, securities fraud and derivative claims, commercial disputes, consumer protection, financial wrongdoing, employment law and personal injuries.