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Volkswagen Emissions Cases Could Be Coming To Detroit Courtrooms

Beetle CarIn 2014, a small group of scientists with West Virginia University made a startling discovery: Volkswagen was lying about their emissions. That tiny $50,000 study would have impacts all over the world, and bring one of the world’s oldest and most successful automobile manufacturers to its knees.

Now, the raft of U.S. lawsuits against the company could be coming to Detroit courtrooms.

On Thursday, Dec. 3, a panel of New Orleans judges heard arguments over exactly where the “flurry of civil lawsuits” should be transferred. The Department of Justice, Volkswagen itself, and other prominent lawyers argued that the federal court in Detroit was the ideal location for the civil cases to be overseen.

Detroit Chief Judge Gerald E. Rosen has extensive experience with complicated and technical automobile litigation; moreover, the Detroit area is home to many auto engineers and other expert witnesses likely to play a major role in the suits. Outside of Detroit, Virginia was the most popular choice among the various lawyers in court Thursday.

“The indisputable facts establish that all roads lead to the Eastern District of Michigan as the center of gravity for this litigation,” wrote E. Powell Miller, the attorney representing VW drivers.

Charles S. Zimmerman, the plaintiff’s lawyer added, “Naturally, the Motor City’s federal court is a subject-matter expert in automotive litigation, a trait mirrored by its chief judge, the Hon. Gerald E. Rosen.”

In the U.S. alone, the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and New York state officials are all investigating VW for cheating official emissions tests. On top of that, class action lawsuits filed on behalf of VW owners are in the works as well.

Stricter emissions and air quality requirements have put new pressures on car companies in the past decade. While hybrid vehicles can usually reduce emissions by about 25 to 30%, Volkswagen promised both consumers and regulators that their new diesel-fueled engines would also meet lower emissions targets in North America and Europe.

Instead, the auto company has since admitted to cheating the tests.

On September 18, the EPA announced that VW had violated air-quality standards, and that investigations are still ongoing. The EPA vehicle-emissions testing lab is located in Ann Arbor, another sign that one of the biggest legal cases in corporate law history could soon be en route to Motor City.

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