VW bid to delay first U.S. diesel emissions trial rejected

Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

FAIRFAX, Va. — A Virginia judge on Tuesday rejected a request by the U.S. unit of Volkswagen AG to delay several of the company’s trials over excess emissions because of “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 Feb. 26 trial involving a North Carolina man who bought a 2014 diesel Jetta.

Volkswagen said publicity from a Netflix documentary that disclosed the company had jointly sponsored tests that exposed monkeys in 2014 to toxic diesel fumes could prejudice its chances of receiving a fair trial.

Judge 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 U.S. 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, U.S. 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 U.S. VW diesel owners, Michael Melkersen, gave an interview in the Netflix documentary in which he referred to the company testing diesel fumes on monkeys.


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