Culminating a series of wins, Volkswagen obtained summary judgment in a case in which plaintiffs had sought significant damages on behalf of multiple purported classes of thousands of consumers who bought used Volkswagen vehicles over a 14-year period. On July 7, Judge Liam O’Grady of the Eastern District of Virginia granted summary judgment on all of plaintiffs’ remaining claims and also granted Volkswagen’s Daubert motions as to plaintiffs’ two damages experts—a separate and independent basis for summary judgment.
The decision in Garcia et al. v. Volkswagen Group of America brings the litigation to a close in the district court, eliminating all that remained of a sprawling proposed class action filed originally in 2019. It built upon two earlier key rulings in which Volkswagen eliminated significant legal exposure by successfully opposing plaintiffs’ two attempts to certify a class, including in a ruling in January 2022.
The case involved used cars that Volkswagen utilized for its internal purposes—such as for auto shows or for publicity loans to members of the automotive press—and which Volkswagen dealers then sold as Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. In May 2018, Volkswagen initiated a recall for some of these vehicles out of an abundance of caution because the vehicle’s internal documentation was not maintained properly.
Plaintiffs claimed that their vehicles did not comply with federal safety standards and had sustained damage that was not properly documented. They asserted that they were entitled to statutory penalties of at least $10,000 per vehicle, plus a full refund of their purchase prices.
In his summary judgment ruling, Judge O’Grady concluded that despite extensive discovery, plaintiffs ultimately came up with nothing: “The series of innuendos and implications that the Plaintiffs have continuously attempted to piece together into a coherent theory of liability does not meet [their legal] burden and has not demonstrated any actual harm to any of the individual Plaintiffs.” He added: “There is no admissible evidence in the record that any of the Plaintiffs’ individual vehicles has any defect.”
Volkswagen was represented by Robert Giuffra Jr., Suhana Han, Bill Monahan and Judson Littleton, who received an American Lawyer “Litigator of the Week” runner-up recognition for this result. The team also included Adam Brebner, Elizabeth Rose, Lee Deppermann, Stephanie Freudenberg, Thomas McIver, Martin Erreich, Elizabeth Williams, Riley Foley, Madeline Jenks, and Zachary Barker.