Judges have been told 1.2 million consumers are seeking compensation against car manufacturers for fitting defeat devices to cheat diesel emissions tests
Four High Court judges have heard the latest allegations following the ‘dieselgate’ emissions scandal, which is being described as the largest group action in the history of the English courts.
The legal arguments were being made before judges at a pre-trial hearing.
Martyn Day, co-founder of law firm Leigh Day, which represents some of claimants, said outside court:
‘This unprecedented High Court hearing illustrates the significance and scale of the vehicle emissions claims; the largest consumer group actions ever brought before the English courts.
‘Together, the law firms bringing the claims represent more than a million people who purchased or leased a diesel vehicle believing it was more environmentally friendly than it really was.’
Consumer Voice reported back in May on the call for Mercedes claimants to complete their client surveys in order to hold Mercedes to account and meet Court deadlines.
Mercedes could be used as the ‘lead’ case
The court was told that of the 1.2million claims Mercedes-Benz was facing more than 300,000 claims. Other manufacturers included in the claims are Opel, Nissan, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Volvo, Hyundai, Toyota and Mazda but the defendants could reach over 1,500 when dealerships are included.
Oliver Campbell, the KC presenting the case, said that Mercedes used a ‘wide range of defeat devices’ and suggested that a sample of cases could be brought forward as evidence. The matter of confidentiality relating to manufacturers’ documents was also raised as something that judges needed to consider at trial.
Lawyer Pete Gallagher, from law firm Pogust Goodhead, which also represents claimants, added outside court:
‘We urge the car manufacturers to do the right thing and reach swift settlements so that justice can be served without the need for the court and the parties to use up huge resources in bringing the cases to a conclusion.’
A Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman said: ‘We continue to believe that the claims against Mercedes-Benz are without merit and will vigorously defend ourselves against them or any group action with the necessary legal means.’
Volkswagen settled in 2022
In 2022, Volkswagen agreed to pay £193 million to more than 90,000 vehicle owners after it settled a group claim for compensation brought in the wake of emissions testing revelations about eight years ago.
The claimants involved in this case were thought to have received average payments of more than £2,100 each. They joined a group legal action that alleged cars made by Volkswagen group, including its Audi, Seat and Skoda brands, emitted more nitrogen dioxide than the company claimed.
The dieselgate scandal kicked off in 2015 after Volkswagen was found to have installed illegal “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests. Despite the settlement Volkswagen has never admitted any wrong-doing and was simply taking a prudent commercial decision to avoid litigation costs.
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