November 19, 2015

Vermont Volkswagen Class Action Suit Frequently Asked Questions


Welcome to Downs Rachlin Martin's Volkswagen Class Action Suit FAQs.

Anyone who has purchased a Volkswagen since 2009 has questions about what is going on with the Class Action Suit filed against Volkswagen, so we've put together some answers to the most frequently asked questions that we've heard. The information provided here is not intended to be legal advice. Before you make any decisions about the actions you may take regarding your personal situation, you should consult your own attorney. This is just some general information about the class action process.

Q: Will these VW’s still pass inspection?

It appears so as long as your car is otherwise eligible for state inspection. The State of Vermont has said that at this point it will allow the affected VW cars to pass the emissions system component of the inspection process.

Q: Is the Goodwill offer a good deal?

It appears so. VW has assured its customers that acceptance of the “Goodwill Package” will not require you to waive your rights or release your claims against Volkswagen Group of America or its affiliates. If you are considering accepting this offer read carefully any documents VW may have you sign in order to claim your goodwill package.

Q: How will damages be calculated?

At some point a court will have to assess damages. The damages will be based on lost value of your car, which could depend to a degree on the model year and/or mileage. We will also advocate that the court consider the level of deception involved in VW’s conduct and consider awarding triple damages under the Vermont Consumer Protection Act and punitive damages. We also believe the court can and should consider the environmental damage caused by VW’s conduct, and that any order resolving this case is not complete without providing for significant environmental remediation.

Q: Is it worth trading in my VW?  If so, can I still be a part of the class?

This is a personal decision, and we cannot offer legal advice. It is possible this could affect your damages calculation or even membership in the class, but it is understandable that people may need to transfer to new cars because of life circumstances and we anticipate a court understanding this reality. In terms of the class as defined in our lawsuit, you would be able to be in that even if you sold your car. But it will be up to a court down the road to define what the class is, and it is not certain what will be done.

Q: What should those with older models do?

Again, this is a personal decision. It is worth considering all of your options, i.e. resale, trade in, goodwill package, continue driving, etc.

Q: What is the time frame for this process?

It is very difficult to predict how long the entire process will take given the relative scope of this problem. Currently, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is considering consolidating all the national class action cases into one big case and transferring it to a single district for pretrial discovery. We expect this to be confined to the discovery phase (the legal process for conducting an investigation into the claims). Afterwards, the case should return to Vermont for trial. This process will likely take multiple years.  

Q: How will the Multidistrict Litigation process work?

A panel of federal judges is holding a hearing in December to decide whether all the class action cases should be consolidated into one case for pretrial discovery and, if so, where the case should be transferred. It is essentially certain that this will happen. Once the case is officially consolidated and transferred the case will remain there for the duration of the discovery phase. Thereafter, the cases should return to the districts they came from for trial. It is possible that the multidistrict court may certify a national class and have all the class action claims resolved through that single lawsuit. If that does happen, you will have the opportunity to agree to whatever class action settlement is offered in that process, or to opt out of that settlement to press an individual claim against VW. At this point, we plan to advocate hard for a Vermont-based class action rather than a national class. If people wish to opt out from a future class action, we may be able to press such claims on your behalf in Vermont. A lot is unknown now, and it is too soon to say what will happen for sure.

Q: Who can be part of the class?

Our proposed class includes people who own or purchased or leased VW diesels in model years 2009 to the present in Vermont. However, until the court certifies a class this is only a proposed class and is subject to change.

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