It seems that massive settlements are going around as of late. Recently, Takata Corporation agreed to pay one billion dollars in fines and restitution to those who were injured because of their airbags, as well as for criminal charges for concealing and removing poor testing results. Now, Volkswagen has joined the “fray,” by agreeing to plead guilty to three criminal felony counts and pay an estimated 4.3 billion dollar settlement for their part in an emissions cheating scandal. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers explain in more detail below.
How Much will Volkswagen Pay?
On January 10th, Volkswagen released a statement that they will plead guilty to three felony criminal counts and pay 4.3 billion dollars in penalties stemming from allegations that they cheated emissions standards. Recently, Volkswagen emissions executive Oliver Schmidt was arrested for his part in an alleged conspiracy with other Volkswagen employees to defraud the federal government by concealing a device designed to cheat emissions tests. This 4.3 billion dollar settlement is also in addition to Volkswagen agreeing to pay $15 billion to repair and buyback vehicles that were polluting the environment.
This device is known as the “defeat device” was installed in half a million diesel cars that were sold in the United States between 2009 and 2005. This ingenious albeit presumably illegal device functioned by detecting when the car was undergoing an emissions evaluation, wherein it would adjust the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions the car was outputting in order that the car would conform to American emission standards. This was in stark contrast to how these half a million diesel cars may have been operating on the roads, whereby some accounts, their emission output exceed forty (40) times the legal limit. The device went both unnoticed and unreported until the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice to both consumers as well as the government in September of 2015.
Do you have Legal Rights as a Consumer?
When you purchase a product you expect that it will be in proper working order. When there is a defect in this product that results in an injury you are entitled to the benefits and protections of product liability law. Unfortunately, this area of law can be quite complicated, and proving that a product is defective or that the fault lies with the manufacturer or supplier, is often a difficult feat. Typically product liability cases are filed on the basis there was a:
- Manufacturing defect
- Design Defect; or
- Failure to warn
However, while it is important to note that if you are injured by a product you may be entitled to file a lawsuit, in the case with Volkswagen there does not appear to be any measurable injuries or damages sustained by consumers by means of the emission device in question.
Recently the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced new standards for strict liability claims. While, previously, the law for strict liability focused on whether the plaintiff met their burden of proving that the product was in an unreasonably unsafe or dangerous condition, the new law removes this level of subjectivity and replaced it with a level of objectivity. Under the current framework in Pennsylvania, if an injured party would like to file a product liability claim, they must prove that the product was in “defective condition.” This phraseology, when applied to the Volkswagen scandal, serves to show why a products liability claim may not be sufficient. Rather than a product not working, it appears that the Volkswagen device that detected and changed the car’s emission output while under inspection worked fairly well. Such as there was no defective product in this case.
What a consumer, like you, should take away from these new changes in liability law is that it is now harder for plaintiffs to recover compensation for strict liability claims. Therefore it is extremely important to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney, who has an extensive background, as well as an understanding of the most current liability standards.
Contact the Philadelphia Product Liability Lawyers
The Philadelphia strict product liability lawyers at The Reiff Law Firm have over 90 collective years of experience and know how to investigate claims to the fullest. Along with our extensive legal background, we strive to help our clients recover physically, emotionally, and financially in any way that we can and fight so that they can begin the healing process. If you or someone you love has been injured because of a faulty product, design flaw, or malfunction, call our law offices at (215) 246-9000, and speak to a lawyer for free today.