As a corporate lawyer, the VW emissions scandal interests me mainly as an example of how large corporations run by supposedly smart people can make incredibly dumb decisions. But, as a lawyer, I will be following the class actions suits with interest.
Alison Frankel speculates on the various possibilities as lawsuits against VW proliferate:
Six jurisdictions have been floated so far by different lawyers for car owners. (VW has not yet signaled whether it agrees the cases should be consolidated and, if so, where.) ...
The more compelling candidates for the VW MDL are Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey; and Alexandria, Virginia, all of which have also been proposed in filings with the MDL panel. New Jersey, which is backed by Lieff Cabraser and Seeger Weiss, is Volkswagen’s state of incorporation in the U.S. and is the home of the company’s U.S. engineering and environmental office as well as other VW corporate operations. New Jersey is also easily accessible to air travelers from Germany, where Lieff and Seeger Weiss assert the supposed emissions-evading scheme was devised and executed.
The “rocket docket” of Eastern Virginia was proposed by Burns Charest, which can’t be accused of hometown chauvinism because it is based in Dallas. Virginia is the headquarters for the U.S. operations of Volkswagen and Audi, making it “their nerve center and the center of their decision-making process,” the Burns firm said. (Clearly, the plaintiffs will have to do some digging to figure out which continent was actually the site of VW’s fateful emissions-rigging decisions.) Burns Charest also points out that Alexandria is a mere 200 miles from Morgantown, West Virginia, where researchers from University of West Virginia first exposed VW’s manipulation of the cars’ emissions. (For however much that is worth.)
VW sold more clean diesel cars in California than any other U.S. state, and more class actions by car owners have been filed there than anywhere else, according to a brief filed Wednesday at the JPML by Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann. Federal judges in Los Angeles, in particular, have already handled sprawling products liability litigation against Kia and Hyundai, which were accused of misrepresenting their fuel efficiency, and against Toyota in the sudden acceleration litigation.
Of course, picking the court will just be the opening round of a litigation morass that is likely to drone on for years.