Vt. man starts class-action lawsuit against VW
VERMONT — A Charlotte man is suing Volkswagen over the German automaker’s recent admission that it manufactured 11 million diesel-fueled cars with faulty emissions technology.
The Burlington law firm Downs Rachlin Martin filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of Robert Turnau late last month. He is the only named plaintiff, but the case alleges fraud on behalf of hundreds or thousands of Vermonters.
Tristram Coffin, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, wrote in a Sept. 23 complaint that Volkswagen AG, Volkswagen Group and Volkswagen Group of America Inc. “sold cars they represented to have clean diesel, environmentally friendly engines.”
Coffin said in a statement that those claims were “a hoax” that have left owners with “lost value, unknown repairs, the disruption of a massive recall, and the substantial cost and hassle of owning a lemon because of a decision they made when they tried to do the right thing for the environment.”
The cars in question are the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta, Golf, Passat and Audi A3 with model years 2008 to the present. The complaint says those cars “had been engineered with an operating system designed to deceive emissions testing to meet state and federal emissions standards which the engines otherwise would not have met.”
The suit accuses Volkswagen of violating the Vermont Consumer Protection Act, of common law fraud, common law negligence, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract. The complaint demands a jury trial in Chittenden Superior Court.
The people who would be eligible for relief under the lawsuit are Vermonters who claim they have been defrauded by the German car maker. The company’s executives have admitted in national news reports to installing faulty software that made inspectors believe the cars were giving off significantly less emissions than they were.
Volkswagen’s chief executive officer, Martin Winterkorn, resigned on Sept. 23 in the wake of the scandal.
Turnau, who lives in Charlotte, bought a 2013 Jetta TDI Diesel Sport Wagon in Barre in September 2013, according to the complaint, “in significant part” due to the carmaker’s claims that it was an “environmentally-friendly, clean diesel automobile.”
“Volkswagen charged a premium price, significantly beyond similar gasoline-powered Volkswagen models or other manufacturers’ cars, due in part to these features,” the complaint says. “While the cars passed emissions tests, they released nitrogen oxide up to 40 times the level allowed by federal law and a number of state emissions standards.”
Volkswagen’s publicly traded stock was down to around $26.50 late last week from about $43 in August.