Judge Grants Preliminary Approval of VW “Clean Diesel” Settlement, Joe Rice named to Settlement Counsel
On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, Senior District Judge Charles R. Breyer for the U.S. District Court Northern District of California heard from the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and Volkswagen regarding the proposed settlement for the In re: Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” MDL. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Breyer granted preliminary approval of the settlement. The proposed settlement was filed with the court on June 26 and would give eligible Volkswagen and Audi owners and lessees options, including a buyback/lease termination or, if approved, an emissions modification to their vehicle. Owners and lessees can wait until September 2018 to decide which option will be best for them. Compensation is also available for former owners who sold their vehicles after the emissions scandal became public in September 2015.
The images below show the step-by-step process for the vehicle buyback and the emissions modification options for 2.0 liter vehicles. While VW has not detailed the fix at this time, included in this proposed settlement is a 12-month schedule in which it may propose a modification for each model and year vehicle. If the modification is not approved by the Court and the EPA, then VW must buy back all of the vehicles.
Motley Rice co-founder, and member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, Joe Rice has played a key role in negotiating the proposed settlement, which is the largest auto-related consumer class action settlement in U.S. history. He presented at the preliminary approval hearing, providing an overview of the claims process and benefits of the settlement, including compensation values.
“…this settlement gives the consumer options. And we thought that was very important. All parties felt the consumer had to have the option to buy back the car, get rid of the car if they wanted to. But there are a significant number of consumers that love these cars and they want to keep them if they can. So we had to have the options,” Rice stated at the hearing. He later said, “…if the Court accepts the schedule that the parties have proposed, we should be having these cars in a buyback mode or hopefully a modification mode in the fourth quarter of this year.”
Judge Breyer, commenting at the hearing about the Settlements, stated, “…you raised an interesting question about those people who decide that they want to pursue their claims individually. First of all, they're entitled to do so. The law permits them to do so. But as to those people, I would just urge them to look at the details of this settlement and to look at what is being achieved by this settlement. Not just from the individual's point of view, but from the point of view of the environment and from the point of the view of remediation and from those points of view. Because that's significant. And that's part of what you are attempting to achieve in this settlement. So I just hope that people, when they make their judgments as every consumer must make his or her judgment, will make an informed judgment, will make a judgment based upon the facts. And I think that that will go a long way in hopefully resolving a number of these issues.”
Speaking to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee representatives, Judge Breyer said, “It appears in your presentation today, as it appeared when you filed your documents, that an enormous effort has been devoted to achieving a series of goals stated eloquently by Ms. Cabraser.” Earlier in the hearing, Ms. Cabraser, chair of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, stated that the overall goals were, “...to come up with a set of settlements that can be enforced by one court and that can work together in the real world, in the world of consumers and dealerships and cars and repairs and the environment, to accomplish the very profound fundamental goals of the litigation.”
During the hearing, Judge Breyer also approved the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee members, including Joe Rice, as Settlement Counsel.
Owners and lessees of 2.0 liter vehicles may now visit www.vwcourtsettlement.com and use the “Check My Eligibility” tool to access the claims portal and view the amount they would receive if they choose the buyback/lease termination option or decide to wait on a potential emissions fix. If an owner or lessee decides to wait for an emissions fix, he can change his mind and take a buyback/lease termination instead any time before his car is fixed. All impacted owners and lessees will receive more information in the mail about the settlement.
The proposed settlement does not apply to 3.0 liter vehicles as remedies are still being discussed. Judge Breyer set a hearing for Aug. 25, 2016 to get an update on the status of these vehicles.
Judge Breyer will hold a hearing on whether or not to grant final approval to the settlement on Oct. 18, 2016. Soon after, if the settlement is approved, claims will begin to be processed for eligible owners, sellers and lessees.