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Volkswagen Emissions Scandal: countdown to trial

Shazia Yamin, Solicitor

In December 2019 the High Court will be asked to decide whether the emissions “cheating” software fitted to VW vehicles sold in England and Wales was illegal. The hearing is expected to last 10 days and is solely focused on answering two questions of law. If the Court finds that the software was illegal, the focus of the litigation will then move to determining what losses vehicle owners have suffered.

The trial is a milestone for affected vehicle owners, many of whom have been waiting for an outcome since news of the scandal first broke in September 2015. Unlike in the US where liability was admitted very early on, Volkswagen has continued to deny liability in this country.

The claim is widely regarded as the largest group action to come before the English courts, with around 94,000 claimants taking part. Leigh Day has been appointed as the joint lead solicitors in the action.

Volkswagen recently settled class action proceedings in Australia, without a formal admission of liability. Under the agreement a minimum of $87m will be made available to owners which could rise to $127m depending on the eventual size of the claimant group.  The Court in Australia was expected to deliver its judgment after the conclusion of the first stage of legal proceedings, which had asked the Court to determine similar questions of law to those being asked of the Court in English proceedings.  The settlement agreement means that this judgment will now not be delivered.

At the same time as preparing for trial, we are in the process of identifying potential lead claimants. Lawyers from both sides will nominate 40 claimants each from which 20 lead claimants will eventually be chosen. Much of next year is expected to be spent on preparing these cases for a further trial and obtaining the evidence necessary to quantify the losses sustained by affected vehicle owners.


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