Photo courtesy of Flickr/Alang7
If you're a Missouri resident who bought a diesel-fueled Volkswagen, you may have hired a lawyer this week — even if you didn't quite realize it.
Just days after the U.S. government accused Volkswagen of cheating on EPA-mandated air pollution tests, at least two sets of St. Louis-area lawyers have filed class action lawsuits seeking to represent all Missouri residents who purchased the Jettas, Passats, Beetles, Golfs and Audi A3s affected by the manufacturer's deception.
One suit, by the Clayton firm Jacobson, Press & FIelds P.C. was filed in Cole County yesterday, where Volkswagen's Missouri business license is registered. Another suit, court records show, was filed in St. Louis County Tuesday by Florissant attorney Jonathan Fortman and St. Louis attorney John Kress. Both suits seek to represent not just the actual plaintiffs — people who purchased VWs in recent years and agreed to represented by the attorneys filing the case — but everyone else in the state who is "similarly situated."
And those lawyers surely won't be the only ones pursuing class-action status. Expect to see similar suits crop up across the nation.
Of Volkswagen's alleged deception, says Matt Vianello, a senior associate at Jacobson, Press & Fields, "This is something that's unlike anything I've ever seen, in terms of how egregious their actions appear to be."
After all, drivers purchased the "clean diesel" cars thinking they were being kind to the environment even while achieving high fuel efficiency and good power, Vianello says. Instead, the EPA alleges, the auto manufacturer secretly installed software allowing it to cheat on emissions tests.
Based on the state's population and the sales of the such Volkswagen automobiles across the nation, Vianello believes as many as 5,000 to 10,000 Missouri residents might be affected.
Ultimately, judges will determine which class action suits representing VW buyers are allowed to proceed — these lawsuits are the firms' way of indicating they'd like to handle the work.
Jacobson, Press & Fields has previously been lead counsel, or co-lead counsel, in some huge class action cases. Its suit against BankAmerica Corporation Securities Litigation led to a $490 million settlement; one against Airline Pilots Association International settled for $53 million.
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