Lisa Kay West last year shelled out $33,000 for a Volkswagen Golf TDI at an Athens dealership because she liked that the diesel engine car was touted as being environmentally friendly.
Now, the Madison County woman is suing the German automaker in federal court for selling her a bill of goods.
Volkswagen last month admitted it equipped some 11 million of its diesel engine cars with so-called “defeat devices,” or software enabling the vehicles to trick emissions tests, hiding the fact they put out as much as 40 times the amount of pollutants than allowed under the Clean Air Act.
Upon learning these developments, West came to understand she was the owner of an illegal car, one that would be expensive to repair, if not possible to re-sell at a large financial loss.
“I was sold a car that wasn’t what I thought I was buying,” she said. “It was supposed to be environmentally friendly, which it turned out not to be.”
West sought out advice on what
her legal options were. She agreed to allow the Athens law firm of Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley file a class-action lawsuit “on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated.” The complaint against Volkswagen was filed Sept. 23 in U.S. District Court in Athens. It’s just one of many such class-action lawsuits now pending across the country against Volkswagen for selling the illegal cars.
“All these folks now have illegal cars, and if they were to try to sell them they would have to represent the cars as such, which makes them unmarketable,” said West’s attorney, Henry Garrard III. “These folks feel they were misled.”
West said when she and her husband were shopping for a car, they specifically looked for a green car that offered good gas mileage. They settled on Volkswagen because of the automaker’s reputation for making solidly-built cars that also had the eco-features they wanted.
“I care about the planet,” West said. “I have grandchildren and I want to keep the environment safe for them for years to come.”
So-called clean diesel Volkswagens with defeat devices were manufactured between 2009 and 2015 and include the TDI (turbocharged direct injection) versions of the Jetta, Golf, Pasat and Beetle, as well as the Audi A3.
The cheating scheme was announced Sept. 18 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which called on Volkswagen to recall some 500,000 cars with falsified emissions data. Volkswagen’s CEO subsequently resigned and authorities in Germany have launched a criminal investigation.
Garrard estimates as of this week, about three dozen class-action suits were filed against Volkswagen in federal courts across the country. The lawsuits could be consolidated and placed before one judge, given the length and complexity of the litigation.
Attorneys at the Athens law firm of Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley had not determined whether they will push for consolidation.
“We have not yet decided what our position will be,” Garrard said. “We’ve got to decide strategically what is best for the people in the state of Georgia.”
It will be up to a federal judicial panel to decide whether the Volkswagen litigation should be bundled in a single case. If so, the panel would choose which judge presides over the case.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Dec. 3.