VW request to delay first US diesel emissions trial rejected by court

Source:Reuters-Global Times Published: 2018/2/21 22:53:26

A Virginia state court judge on Tuesday rejected a request by the US unit of Volkswagen AG (VW) to delay several of the company's trials over excess emissions since "inflammatory" comments made by a lawyer representing car owners that it fears will prejudice the jury.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Bruce White said after a hearing that he would proceed with a trial involving a North Carolina man who bought a 2014 diesel Jetta.

White said he was satisfied a fair panel could be seated for the expected three-week trial. "The jurors don't know much about these cases," White said generally of high-profile cases.

The German carmaker is being sued by some consumers after it admitted in September 2015 to cheating on diesel emissions tests, sparking the biggest business crisis in its history.

Nearly all US owners of affected cars agreed to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 in the United States that addressed claims from them, environmental regulators, US states, and dealers. About 2,000 owners, however, opted out and most are pursuing court claims seeking additional compensation.

Volkswagen of America had asked White to delay that trial for at least six months after a lawyer for more than 300 US VW diesel owners, Michael Melkersen, gave an interview in the Netflix documentary in which he referred to the company testing diesel fumes on monkeys.

In the Netflix interview, Melkersen criticized the tests, adding: "One cannot help to think back throughout history of another series of events involving individuals being gassed by a person who was actually at the opening of the very first Volkswagen factory," an apparent reference to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.

Volkswagen lawyers said that "pretrial publicity has connected directly with Hitler and the Holocaust," which they said was irrelevant to a trial about claims of consumer fraud.


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