A vast group action case pitting more than 50,000 UK car owners against Volkswagen (VW) is set to go to trial early next year following a complex three-day hearing last week.
Last week consumer rights firms Leigh Day and Slater and Gordon, alongside Chesterfield-based Your Lawyers, were at the High Court where they succesfully applied for a group litigation order (GLO) allowing affected car owners to have their claims managed together rather than every car owner having to sue VW individually.
Slater and Gordon and Leigh Day will be appointed as ‘lead lawyers’ in the claim, which is set to be one of the largest group action cases in history.
VW intends to contest the claims and denies that UK customers have suffered any loss or financial detriment.
Potential claimants, who say they were adversely affected by the motor giant’s alleged fitting of software to manipulate the results of emissions tests, have until October to decide whether to join the challenge.
The claim is financed by litigation funders Therium Capital Management and Ferguson Litigation Funding. The first pre-trial hearing is expected in early 2019.
Lawyers on behalf of the claimants will argue that by installing the so-called ‘defeat devices’ in their cars to cheat on emissions tests, VW profited from and deceived people into buying cars which were not compliant with emissions regulations.
Gareth Pope, a group litigation solicitor at Slater and Gordon, said the granting of the order was ‘a huge step forward’ in the motorists’ battle for justice.
He added: 'VW profited by betraying the trust of their customers. Now those consumers have the chance to hold VW to account for their deceit and will finally have their day in court. Given the scale of the deceit affecting over one million car owners in England and Wales, we have put in place funding so that consumers don’t have to pay to join the claim.’
Pope said he expects it will be the largest consumer legal action in this country’s history.
VW says it will robustly defend the claims. A spokesperson told the Gazette: ‘It has not been established that the relevant software is an illegal defeat device. We have made it clear that we do not anticipate that our UK customers have suffered any loss or financial detriment.’
All past and present owners of affected VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda cars can join the claim.
The GLO is subject to the approval of the Queens Bench Division.
Henderson Chambers’ Oliver Campbell QC is instructed by Slater and Gordon while VW, which is represented by magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, is instructing a team led by Charles Gibson QC, also of Henderson Chambers.