Volkswagen creates US diesel emissions claims program

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Lawyers for car owners warn VW: Hiring Feinberg won’t get you out cheap.

The Volkswagen #dieselgate investigation is still ongoing, and the company has just recently appointed lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to manage a claims resolution process in response to the scandal. He has earned their regard in designing and implementing settlement programs over the past 30 years, including funds for victims of the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the General Motors ignition switch defect. And more importantly, the claims process will likely allow owners of diesels with emission-cheating software to request for monetary compensation from Volkswagen.

District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco invited recommendations for a court-appointed settlement mediator in the gigantic consolidated clean diesel litigation against Volkswagen, Feinberg was suggested by at least a half-dozen plaintiffs’ firms that sang his praises. It’s also worth noting that there are no details yet on what owners might receive or how the law firm decides which owners are eligible for compensation. On Thursday, Feinberg and Volkswagen announced that the lawyer will indeed oversee a settlement fund for claimants affected by VW emissions cheating – but not through the class action litigation before Judge Breyer.

Volkswagen admitted to putting cheat software in cars equipped with 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter diesel engines that recognized when it was being tested for emissions and changed the engine’s tuning enough to pass the test. Feinberg is also trying to crack his head around the most challenging question that they have come to accept: what’s the most appropriate remedy that would give the owner total peace? The voluntary program, whose terms have not yet been set, will be entirely separate from whatever happens in the VW litigation, according to Feinberg’s VW deputy, Camille Biros. Lawyers representing VW owners said in interviews Friday that if the company wants their clients to drop out of the litigation, it will have to offer car owners almost as much as plaintiffs’ lawyers believe they can obtain in the consolidated litigation.

Both Robert Hilliard and James Kreindler have worked with Feinberg in previous cases, Hilliard in the GM ignition switch death and injury fund and Kreindler in the 9/11 victims fund. Scores if not hundreds of plaintiffs’ lawyers are expected to appear, and it’s a good bet that some will raise concerns about VW’s out-of-court settlement program. Chris Seeger, for instance, told my colleague Jessica Dye that VW’s sudden announcement of a private settlement program, even as firms are responding to Judge Breyer’s invitation to nominate mediators in the litigation, “doesn’t pass the smell test.” “I do not see Judge Breyer allowing VW to set up their own program without court guidance and oversight, particularly when these were filed as class actions,” Seeger told Dye. “I need to be open-minded but VW is off to a bad start.”

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