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New Jersey Seeks Consolidation of VW Emissions Lawsuits

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The number of lawsuits filed against Volkswagen (VW) because of its cheating emissions scandal continues to rise. Now, in response to the growing litigation, a petition has been filed in New Jersey requesting consolidation within the state, to create a multicounty litigation (MCL). This would enable a more efficient pre-trial process, and would bring all parties together in one court.

Federally filed VW lawsuits were consolidated in the Northern District of California last December. Around the country, over 600 consumer lawsuits are seeking various forms of relief from VW, based largely on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) notice of violation to the automaker last fall, alerting VW of its violations of the Clean Air Act.

The petition notes that there are already 12 “clean diesel” lawsuits pending in New Jersey, and that two of these are putative class action cases brought on behalf of all New Jersey owners and lessees of the vehicles. The other 10 cases were brought by individual owners or lessees. The cases are currently pending in ten separate locations, ranging from Atlantic County to Bergen County.

New Jersey VW Lawsuits Share Common Questions of Fact

This isn’t the first time New Jersey has requested consolidation. Back in December 2015, petitions moved for an MCL, but there were only five cases pending at that time. With the additional seven lawsuits, centralization is now even more appropriate, the petitioners state. Such consolidation would help the parties coordinate discovery, reduce the risk of conflicting rulings, and save the resources of the judicial system.

Petitions assert that all New Jersey cases involve common questions of law and fact, including a high degree of commonality of alleged injuries and damages among the plaintiffs. In other words, the plaintiffs all seek compensatory damages resulting from misrepresentations VW allegedly made in regards to its “environmentally friendly” clean-diesel vehicles. Indeed, the automaker advertised the vehicles as being both eco-friendly while retaining performance and fuel efficiency. VW also charged a premium price for these characteristics.

VW’s claims ultimately turned out to be false. On September 18, 2015, the EPA issued a notice of violation to the automaker, declaring that its had installed so-called “defeat devices” into certain diesel vehicles that were able to defeat emissions testing. In other words, while the cars were going through the emissions tests, certain systems were turned on to allow the vehicle to comply with the Clean Air Act emission standards.

Once the vehicle returned to normal driving operation, however, some of these systems were turned off. The result was an increase in toxic emissions, with some toxins like nitric oxide far exceeding federal limits.

Consumers Demanding Relief

As a result of VW’s deceptions, hundreds of thousands of consumers purchased or leased at premium prices a vehicle that did not comply with federal emissions requirements. The vehicles have lost value on the market, and consumers want to be reimbursed.

VW has implemented a recall on the affected vehicles, but so far has been unable to come up with a fix for the problem that would reduce emission and maintain performance.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has filed an environmental lawsuit against VW, and the state of New Jersey has also taken legal action against the company.

The petition suggests Atlantic County as the most appropriate venue for a VW emissions lawsuit MCL.