In just days, she has gone from proud VW diesel owner to the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit filed in the state of Texas. The suit claims that she, and others, was defrauded by the giant German automaker when it blatantly circumvented EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) emission standards. Harris paid an extra $6,000 for her Jetta believing she was getting a vehicle with “green technology” and only minimal impact on the environment.
“We have now represented 500 VW owners so far,” says Robert Hilliard, founding partner at Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“The people are absolutely livid. If they didn’t care about the environment, they may as well have gone out and bought a 66 Chevy.”
Adds Hilliard, “These VW diesel owners were making a real lifestyle statement when they bought their cars. Now, they find out Volkswagen totally misrepresented these vehicles as ‘green technology.’ The car is not environmentally friendly. In fact, it actually spews nitrous oxides at a rate of 40 times the standard set by the EPA. My clients are livid.”
Volkswagen has voluntarily ordered its dealers not to sell any more of these cars. However, Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales has today applied for the first official Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in the country to prevent VW from doing further harm.
“We have asked the Court to order that Volkswagen preserve all evidence related to this recall and defeat devices. Given the large scale of this case and the clear criminal implications, it is critical that no further misconduct occurs.” Hilliard says.
“My clients have been and will continue to be harmed - we cannot continue to allow VW vehicles on the road that emit up to 40x more harmful chemicals into the air. Exposure to these chemicals can cause severe respiratory problems, hospitalization and even increase the rate of death,” Hilliard says.
“This is not a decreased value case,” says Hilliard. “This requires a full purchase price plus damage to the model. And each individual customer is now in violation of a federal law.
“In Texas, deceptive trade practices law dictates plaintiffs get actual damages, which is the purchase price times 3, so I expect VW will pay north of $100 billion to these owners.”
An estimated 11 million vehicles manufactured by VW were fitted with a type of software that made the engine emissions comply with regulations when run through the standard test system. However, when the vehicles were road-tested, a different picture began to emerge.
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The trick “defeat device” was installed in “diesel light duty vehicles,” model years 2009 to 2015. It was discovered during EPA testing in 2014 and in subsequent tests. According to Hilliard, the device worked by stifling emissions when the steering wheel stayed stationary - as it would in a laboratory testing situation.
Caught red-handed, Volkswagen admitted it had installed special software to show lower emissions during testing.
Robert C. Hilliard’s firm, Hilliard Muñoz Gonzales, has previously recovered damages for clients in personal injury and death cases related to GM’s faulty ignition switch cases.