Good news for our case as Volkswagen lose at the first stage of English case, but they indicate that they may appeal.

As you may have seen in the news, judgment has just been given by the Court in England in the “Dieselgate” group action against Volkswagen.  We set out below what this means for our own group action.

Why is the case in England relevant?

The group action in Northern Ireland is separate from the action in England, but the issues are largely the same.  In order to save costs, the parties in Northern Ireland are awaiting the outcome of the case in England.   The expectation is that our own case will follow whatever decision is reached by the Court in England.

What is the judgment about?

The judgment just given follows a hearing in December last year to decide two preliminary questions.  Firstly, whether Volkswagen was bound by existing decisions from EU authorities that the engines in question contained an unlawful “defeat device” and secondly whether the engines did in fact contain a “defeat device”.

A “defeat device” has a particular meaning under an EU regulation, but in simple terms it means anything which changes or reduces the effectiveness of the engine’s emissions control system.  The allegation against Volkswagen is that the engines were designed to produce less emissions when they were being tested and more emissions when in normal use.

What did the Court find?

The Court found on the first question that Volkswagen were bound by the decision of German regulators that the engines contained “defeat devices”, and on the second question found that the engines did contain defeat devices.  The Court was very critical of Volkswagen.  Gareth Pope of Slater and Gordon who represent the majority of the claimants in England told press: "In the judge's own words, VW's defence was 'highly flawed', 'hopeless' and 'absurd'”.

Can Volkswagen Appeal?

Volkswagen can appeal and have indicated that they are “considering carefully the grounds on which it may seek to appeal [the] decision”.  If they do appeal, this could take some months.

What happens next?

The Court’s decision is positive for the Claimants in England and for our own group action, but it does not decide the case.  Having established that the engines contained defeat devices (and assuming that that decision is not successfully appealed), the Claimants must now show that the devices caused them loss for which Volkswagen should be liable.  The full hearing is not likely to take place until 2021.

Any queries?

If you have any queries, please email rachel.powderly@edwardsandcompany.co.uk and we will be happy to help.  Further updates will be provided as the case develops.

Tel: +44 (0)28 9032 1863
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