On January 4, 2016, the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche (collectively known as Volkswagen). The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impaired their emission control systems and caused emissions to exceed EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution. The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States, motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The lawsuit asks for penalties of up to $37,500 per car totalling a possible $90 billion, significantly higher than estimates made last September.
The filing of the civil complaint under the Clean Air Act seeks injunctive relief and the assessment of civil penalties. A civil complaint does not preclude the government from other legal remedies. The United States will seek to transfer its case and fully participate in the pretrial proceedings now initiated in the related multi-district litigation in the Northern District of California.
This major lawsuit reaffirms allegations environmental regulators made last year and significantly puts more pressure on the company by seeking such penalties and putting the case before a federal judge. EPA and CARB have been in active discussion with Volkswagen about potential remedies and recalls and discussions are ongoing.
“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.”
Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, Texas. For over 65 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. For more information, please contact the office of Benny Agosto, Jr. at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, by letter at 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713) 222-7211.