Volkswagen has suffered another sensitive legal defeat in the “Dieselgate” affair. An appeals court ruled Monday that additional penalties from two districts of the states of Florida and Utah were permitted, despite settlements that had already been settled. Although VW has already been held accountable for violations of the nationwide US Clean Air Act due to manipulated exhaust technology due to diesel cars, regional authorities may still impose further sanctions. Should the Supreme Court also share this legal opinion, the Wolfsburg-based company would face another high penalty.
The judges said they were aware that their decision could lead to “breathtaking strains”. VW noted in a statement that the court’s line conflicted with other US jurisdiction. The company announced that it would vigorously defend itself and bring the case to the highest level if necessary.
VW granted exhaust gas manipulation on a large scale in September 2015. The group already paid the scandal with legal costs of over 30 billion euros – the largest part of which related to penalties and compensation in the USA.
Regional catalogs of fines
Volkswagen was sued in the “Dieselgate” affair for environmental violations by the Salt Lake County, Utah and Hillsborough County, Florida districts. Should the judge’s decision finally become final, the districts could theoretically claim billions in damages from the automaker. According to US judge Charles Breyer, who initially decided in favor of VW in 2018, the burden on the company based on the regional catalog of fines in the two districts could amount to up to $ 11.2 billion a year.
The lawsuits relate not only to the US subsidiary of the VW brand, but also to those of the manufacturers Audi and Porsche belonging to the group, which also had their exhaust emissions reduced with the help of a special shutdown device. In addition, among those accused by the US districts is the German supplier Bosch, who is said to have supplied the manipulation software and had already agreed on expensive comparisons with US plaintiffs.
For VW, the exhaust gas affair in the United States was – apart from a continuing conflict with the SEC stock exchange – actually closed. The company made a pleading of guilt in court and was not only subjected to enormous sanctions under civil law, but also paid a billion dollar fine for criminal offenses. Criminal charges and arrest warrants issued by the US judicial authorities have been filed against several suspects, including ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn. Two former VW employees have already been sentenced to years in prison and high fines.