Group action specialist Harcus Sinclair has been ordered to stop representing claimants in the Volkswagen emissions case after a High Court judgment said it breached a non-disclosure agreement agreed with another claimant firm.
The court ruled that before the case began, Harcus Sinclair had agreed with Chesterfield-based Your Lawyers not to represent claimants other than those Your Lawyers already represented.
According to Your Lawyers, despite having entered into the agreement and its existence being ’repeatedly’ drawn to Harcus Sinclair’s attention, the London-based firm ’persisted in recruiting claimants in breach of the agreement’. Harcus Sinclair disputes this.
Harcus Sinclair eventually joined forces with Slater and Gordon to organise a separate group - one of the largest group actions ever. Slater and Gordon has now assumed control of the group, which has around 45,000 claimants.
Gareth Pope, associate at Slater and Gordon, said the firm’s principle focus is on giving claimants a collective voice and ensuring that they are represented and compensated.
‘Owners of affected VW, Audi, SEAT or Škoda cars can join the claim at vwemissionsaction.com and hold VW accountable for their actions whether or not they still own an affected car and regardless of whether or not they have had the ‘fix’ applied by VW,’ he added.
The claim, thought to be one of the largest group actions cases, arose out of revelations that motor giant VW fitted diesel cars with software that could manipulate the results of emissions tests.
In Wednesday’s judgment, deputy judge Edwin Johnson QC ruled that the non-disclosure agreement had been broken, as well a solicitor’s undertaking, and that Harcus Sinclair should be removed from the litigation until 2022.
Harcus Sinclair confirmed to the Gazette that it has pulled out of the case but that it intends to appeal against the judgment.
A spokesperson representing the claimant group said there was no change in how the case – which is being funded by Therium Capital Management - was progressing.
Aman Johal of Your Lawyers Limited said: ’We have been fighting for justice on behalf of VW owners ever since September 2015. I never expected that I would have to fight another firm of solicitors before I fought VW. I have had to do so in order to ensure that the professional standards of solicitors are upheld and that my clients are protected.’
The next hearing in the UK legal action against VW will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice, by Senior Master Fontaine on Monday 27 November.
Harcus Sinclair has experience in running similar group actions and is currently representing around 6,000 former Lloyds TSB shareholders. That case, currently being heard at London’s Business and Property Courts, alleges that the shareholders were misled into approving a disastrous takeover of HBOS at the height of the financial crisis.