Volkswagen Class Action Suit Progresses
Judge Breyer sets a June 21 deadline for a proposed consent decree.
On the evening of April 20, a number of news outlets published stories that Volkswagen had reached a tentative settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the plaintiff’s steering committee and other interested parties to settle the case. Those press reports included information about some of the terms of the proposed settlement agreement based on unnamed confidential sources.
In a court hearing before Judge Breyer, counsel for Volkswagen, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs’ steering committee and representatives of the U.S. government all told the judge there was definite momentum being made toward resolving the case as to the 2.0 liter VW and Audi cars that are the bulk of the autos implicated in the emissions scandal. They announced the broad outline of an agreement in principle, but many specific terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court. All signs suggest a settlement agreement to propose to the court and to the public for comment is on the horizon.
Judge Breyer indicated that he believed there was substantial momentum as well, based on his information from the court’s special settlement master Robert Mueller. He said he wanted to hold the parties’ feet to the fire to get the case resolved. So, he gave the United States government (Department of Justice, EPA and FTC) and VW until June 21 to file in court a proposed consent decree (a fancy word for settlement agreement to be approved by the court). Similarly, he gave the plaintiffs’ steering committee and VW until June 21 to file a settlement agreement in court for comment by the public and VW owners who were victimized by the VW emissions fraud.
In a somewhat unusual step, Judge Breyer also imposed a gag order prohibiting anyone on the plaintiffs’ steering committee, VW or in the government from making any comment about any of the terms of the settlement agreement until such time as the final agreement is made public in the court filing on June 21. He’s concerned that a premature disclosure and discussion of the terms of such an agreement could undermine the chances for the agreement becoming finalized.
Judge Breyer reiterated that if and when a final settlement is reached, there will be ample opportunity for public comment and comment by affected class members to discuss it. And we do have a very strong panel of attorneys representing the interests of VW customers and owners, so I have faith a sensible settlement will be reached.
Judge Breyer has scheduled another hearing for May 19 to check on the status of finalizing the negotiations, and to make sure the case remains on track.
Here what DRM attorneys Tristram Coffin and Robert Luce have to say in this interview on Local News Channel WPTZ.