Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Lawsuit

On June 28, 2016, lead counsel for Plaintiffs in the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions lawsuit, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, submitted a proposed Consumer Class Action Settlement Agreement and Release to federal district court Judge Charles Breyer for owners and lessees of certain Volkswagen and Audi 2.0L TDI vehicles. More information on the proposed settlement is available on the official Volkswagen settlement website.

Negotiations regarding the 3.0L TDI vehicles are ongoing. Because the Court must approve any settlement, the settlement benefits are not effective. Lead counsel will formally present the proposed settlement to Judge Breyer on July 26, 2016.

Goal of our VW Diesel Emissions Lawsuit

After years of marketing and selling so-called “clean diesel” vehicles, Volkswagen admitted to installing illegal software designed to cheat federal and state emissions testing in certain diesel Jetta, Passat, Golf, Beetle, Audi A3, A6, A7, A8, Q5, Q7, and Porsche Cayenne vehicles manufactured after 2008. Our attorneys filed a class action lawsuit alleging Volkswagen defrauded consumers when it marketed and sold these “clean diesel” vehicles.

One of our lead attorneys on the case, Andre Mura, explains the goal of the lawsuit.

Get a Volkswagen lawsuit timeline, answers to FAQs, and other case information and resources here.

How VW's Illegal Software Works

The illegal software works by switching pollution controls on during emissions testing, and off during normal driving. When the vehicles are actually driven (as opposed to being tested), they can emit ten to forty times the lawful amount of nitrogen oxide—a pollutant that contributes to smog and serious health problems.

Affected Vehicles

About 500,000 Volkswagen and Audi 2.0L diesel engine vehicles in the U.S. may be affected, including:

  • 2009-2016 Volkswagen Jetta (including the Jetta Sportswagen)
  • 2010-2016 Volkswagen Golf (including the Golf Sportswagen)
  • 2012-2016 Volkswagen Beetle (including the Beetle Convertible)
  • 2012-2016 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2009-2016 Volkswagen Touareg
  • 2010-2016 Audi A3
  • 2014-2016 Audi A6
  • 2014-2016 Audi A7
  • 2014-2016 Audi A8
  • 2014-2016 Audi Q5
  • 2009-2016 Audi Q7
  • 2013-2016 Porsche Cayenne

Our VW Class Action Lawsuit

The class action lawsuit 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.

Read a copy of the filed lawsuit here.

Volkswagen Admits to Using Defeat Devices

This suit follows on the heels of 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 as the result of 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.

Although Volkswagen issued a voluntary recall in 2014, testing performed by CARB showed only a limited benefit. As a result, CARB and the EPA decided not to approve VW’s 2016 diesel vehicles for certification until it explained the emissions. According to the EPA, “[o]nly then did VW admit it had designed and installed a defeat device in these vehicles in the form of a sophisticated software algorithm that detected when a vehicle was undergoing emissions testing.”

EPA Notice of Violation

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 sensed 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’ 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, the use of a defeat device

to evade clean air standards is illegal and a threat to public health.


The New York Times reports that nitrogen oxide contributes to climate change by helping to create ozone and smog. The newspaper also linked nitrogen oxide to a range of health problems, including asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases, cardiovascular complications, and even premature death.

Federal Penalties

The Obama administration has ordered Volkswagen to recall 482,000 affected diesel vehicles. According to The New York Times, the federal government may seek up to $37,500 in penalties per recalled vehicle, leaving VW liable for up to $18 billion in fines. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has filed its own violation.

While federal and state authorities may seek civil penalties to redress any environmental wrongs, the class action lawsuit filed on September 21, 2015 on behalf of consumers nationwide seeks monetary relief for the alleged fraud. This compensation may be critically important, because changing the emissions system to bring the car into compliance with federal standards may impact the vehicle’s performance and fuel economy.

Our Auto Class Action Experience

The auto defect attorneys at Girard Gibbs have over 20 years of experience representing drivers against major vehicle manufacturers such as HondaGeneral MotorsHyundaiToyotaKia, and Ford. We have earned over $1 billion for our clients, and have achieved some of the largest auto defect settlements on record. Read more about our results.

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