Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Slater & Gordon, PGMBM and Leigh Day have advised on a £193 million settlement between Volkswagen and around 91,000 claimants in a U.K. group action over the carmaker’s emissions scandal.
Around 70,000 of the claimants were represented by Slater & Gordon with principal lawyer Alicia Thompson, playing a key role in the case, alongside data & compliance officer Elizabeth Comley.
PGMBM represented a further 15,000 of the claimants, with partner and head of consumer protection litigation Tony Winterburn heading the team.
The Leigh Day team was headed by partner of product safety & consumer law Bozena Michalowska Howells.
In addition to the £193 million, a separate contribution is being made by the Volkswagen Group towards the claimants’ legal costs and other fees.
The claim, which should now result in each car owner receiving around £2,100, was backed by litigation funders Therium and North Wall Capital. Therium, the largest backers, funded claimants represented by Slater & Gordon, whilst North Wall financed the PGMBM claimants. Leigh Day did not have any litigation funding, instead working on a conditional fee agreement.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which has a long-standing working relationship with the VW group, worked with the Volkswagen group to reach the agreement. Their team was headed by disputes, litigation and arbitration partner John Blain.
Problems for Volkswagen first came to light in September 2015, after the company admitted in a press release that it had installed the software in certain Volkswagen Group vehicles, affecting up to 11 million vehicles worldwide, and 1.2 million in the UK. The admission spurred multiple so-called ‘Dieselgate’ lawsuits around the world including in Germany and the US.
The collective action, named the Volkswagen NOx Emissions Group Litigation, was granted in the U.K. back in 2020 when the High Court judge concluded that the emissions testing software was nothing more than “prohibited defeat devices”.
In a statement regarding the settlement, Volkswagen stated it did not admit “any liability, causation or loss”, but apologized for the installation of the software.
“The Volkswagen Group will continue to work to rebuild the trust of their customers here in England & Wales. This settlement represents an important further stage in that process.”
Class action litigation has been gaining traction in Europe especially in regards to environmental and Big Tech concerns. In 2021, boutique firm Hausfeld & Co filed a group action claim against tech giants on behalf of 19.5 million UK users.