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Car manufacturers to face accusers over emissions scandal | Rob Harkavy | CDR Article

The High Court has granted group litigation orders against six motor-vehicle giants in claims that are likely to run to millions of pounds and take several years to resolve.

The High Court in London yesterday (5 February) granted group litigation orders (GLOs) against six major car manufacturers over allegations of emissions cheating. Thousands of claimants are accusing Nissan, Vauxhall, Stellantis (formerly Fiat-Chrysler), Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo and Volkswagen of installing devices in their vehicles to manipulate emissions tests. The claims involve hundreds of thousands of vehicles and allege breaches of consumer protection laws, misrepresentation of environmental performance, and conspiracy to deceive regulators and the public, demonstrating that the scope of the claims reaches way beyond the question of whether or not the manufacturers did indeed wilfully misrepresent their emissions data, raising serious questions about corporate responsibility, consumer rights and environmental protection.

The claimants argue that the defendants installed software or hardware in their diesel vehicles that could detect when they were undergoing emissions tests. This so-called ‘defeat device’ would then reduce the output of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) during the test. However, under normal driving conditions, the vehicles would emit far higher levels of NOx, contributing to air pollution and climate change. The defendants have categorically denied the allegations and have vowed to defend themselves vigorously, contending that their vehicles complied with the relevant emissions standards and regulations at the time of sale, and that they did not use any unlawful or deceptive practices.

The GLOs were granted in the King’s Bench Division by Senior Master Cook, who is overseeing all the NOx emissions group litigation claims in England. Another GLO against Volkswagen, together with fellow German manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and Porsche was granted on 8 December last year by Senior Master Cook, sitting with Mrs Justice Cockerill and Mr Justice Constable.

In yesterday’s judgment, the court ordered the parties to consider whether some of the issues, including the interpretation of the European emissions regulation and the limitation periods for the claims, can be tried on a common basis across all the GLOs. The court has set a provisional date of October 2024 for the trial of these common issues.

The issue of falsified diesel emissions data, which gained almost instant global notoriety in 2015 when Volkswagen admitted to the illicit use of defeat devices in millions of diesel cars all over the world, and for which the claimants are seeking compensation for the loss of value of their vehicles, the increased fuel consumption and maintenance costs, and the environmental damage caused by the excess emissions, is expected to last for several years and involve hundreds of millions of pounds in legal costs and potential damages, including punitive damages for fraud and conspiracy.

Was there ever any doubt that the GLOs would be granted? Nicola Vinovrški, a partner with Milberg London, which is leading on the Vauxhall claim and is also part of the Mercedes-Benz case, tells CDR how in December the President of the King’s Bench Division, Dame Victoria Sharp, “made it very clear that the court is going to use its case-management powers to manage these cases together, that [she] expects a high level of cooperation on both sides, and that it was likely that GLOs would be appropriate”.

Vinovrški is full of praise for how the court approached the claims, noting that “no one has ever made six GLOs in a two-day hearing before.”

“There is a lack of shyness on the court’s part in managing these types of cases and there’s a lot of very experienced people that are turning their minds to these things,” continues Vinovrški. “The court’s focus is clearly on how to run these cases most efficiently to ensure that there is not an access to justice issue for possibly more than a million consumers affected, which is great news for everyone. There is a lot of work to do and what is really encouraging is that the court has shown that it is very willing to roll up its sleeves and engage with these cases and the parties involved.”

It is in all parties’ nterests that the claims be dealt with as efficiently as possible, and Vinovrški is keen to point out that “while we are technically ‘enemies’, there has been a high level of cooperation across parties and across legal teams”.

Sitting at the sharp end of group litigation, Vinovrški is positive about the way in which the English courts are addressing collective redress in general: “Great progress has been made in the group action space, showing that this kind of thing can be done by the English courts. They’re not afraid to be innovative and unconventional, and to do things extremely quickly when it’s needed.”

In Various Claimants v Nissan, Vauxhall, Stellantis, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo and Volkswagen at the hearing before Senior Master Cook, the claimants were represented by Adam Kramer KC of 3 Verulam Buildings, Joanna Buckley of Matrix Chambers and Anna Dannreuther of Old Square Chambers, instructed by Pogust Goodhead, Leigh Day, Keller Postman and Milberg London.

Vauxhall was represented by Leigh-Ann Mulcahy KC of Fountain Court Chambers, Charlotte Tan of Brick Court Chambers and Sophia Hurst of Essex Court Chambers, instructed by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. Mulcahy is also representing Stellantis, alongside Simon Atrill KC of Fountain Court Chambers and Megan McTague of 2 Temple Gardens, instructed by Kennedys.

Jaguar Land Rover was represented by Andrew Kinnier KC and James White of Henderson Chambers, and Lee Finch of Gough Square Chambers, instructed by CMS and Linklaters. Finch is also representing Volvo, alongside Iain MacDonald, also of Gough Square, and Douglas Paine of One Essex Court, instructed by DLA Piper, Linklaters and DWF Law.

Volkswagen was represented by Prashant Popat KC, Geraint Webb KC and Thomas Evans, all of Henderson Chambers, instructed by Freshfields and Hogan Lovells.

This article was originally published by a www.cdr-news.com . Read the Original article here. .

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