On December 1, 2015, a Pennsylvania couple filed a class action lawsuit against Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.
Representative plaintiffs Ed and Jody Hendricks, who are citizens of Chester County, filed on behalf of all other VW diesel vehicle owners who are affected by the VW emissions recall. They seek monetary damages from the automaker arising out of “Volkswagen’s deceptive scheme to violate U.S. law.”
Plaintiffs Duped by VW “Clean Diesel” Advertisements
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Pennsylvania, but as all federally filed cases were recently consolidated into the Northern District of California, this case will likely be transferred there for pretrial proceedings.
According to their complaint, the representative plaintiffs purchased a new 2011 VW Jetta TDI with a 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine in August 2011. At that time, they had no way of knowing that the vehicle had been equipped with the so-called “defeat device,” which allowed it to cheat on emissions tests.
Instead, the Hendricks’ believed that they were buying an environmentally friendly vehicle, one that complied with federal emissions requirements, was properly EPA certified, and would retain those characteristics represented in VWs marketing and other materials, including its fuel performance and efficiency. In fact, they state that they bought the vehicle in part because of the advertised “clean diesel” system.
Prior to buying the vehicle, the plaintiffs had reviewed television and Internet advertisements that underscored the cleanliness and eco-friendliness of the VW vehicle, as well as its engine and vehicle performance. Based on what they learned in these advertisements, they ultimately purchased the car.
EPA Issues Notice of Violation to VW for Defeat Devices
On September 18, 2015, the EPA issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Volkswagen, declaring that the company had installed defeat devices in certain model year 2009 through 2015 diesel lightweight duty vehicles. These devices were able to bypass, defeat or render inoperative certain parts of the vehicles’ control systems that existed to comply with U.S. emission standards, to improve fuel efficiency and engine performance during regular operation.
In other words, the vehicles were able to detect when they were going through an emissions test, during which they would enable these control systems, but then when the drivers took the cars back into regular operation, these systems were adjusted, allowing emissions to rise above legal limits.
On November 2, 2015, the EPA issued a second NOV and to Porsche AG and Porsche Cars North America because the defeat devices had been discovered on additional vehicles.
Meanwhile, since 2009, VW has marketed certain of their diesel vehicles as being environmentally friendly, yet high performance, all the while allegedly knowing that they had installed these defeat devices.
Hundreds of Consumers Duped
The plaintiffs state that as a result of VW’s deception, “hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting consumers purchased or leased—at a premium—a class vehicle that did not comply with federal emissions requirements.”
They state that had they known about these devices, they never would have purchased their vehicles. They add that even with the VW recall, they and other consumers will not have the efficiency or performance that was promised on their vehicles, and that they will be worth less in the aftermarket because of this scandal.
The plaintiffs bring counts of fraud and fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation and omission, breach of contract, breach of warranties, unjust enrichment, negligence per se, and violation of Pennsylvania’s unfair trade practices and consumer protection law. They seek actual damages as well as punitive and exemplary damages.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.