After nearly seven years of litigation, Volkswagen prevailed in one of the few remaining legal fights over “defeat devices” that allowed excessive emissions from its diesel vehicles. On June 22, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California granted Volkswagen’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed all claims brought by two counties challenging Volkswagen’s post-sale software updates as unlawful tampering under their state and local laws.
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, Florida and Salt Lake County, Utah, challenged the defeat devices and software updates as unlawful tampering. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the claims based on the defeat device in new vehicles were preempted, but allowed the counties to proceed to discovery with their claims related to post-sale software updates.
When the matters returned to the district court, Volkswagen hired an engineering consulting firm to conduct extensive vehicle testing. This testing conclusively established that the software updates significantly reduced emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx). In his summary judgment ruling, Judge Breyer held that the evidence was “overwhelming” that the updates reduced NOx emissions.
The S&C team representing Volkswagen included Robert Giuffra Jr., Michael Steinberg, David Rein, Bill Monahan, Matt Schwartz, Jeff Wall, Judd Littleton, Nick Menillo, Bill Wagener, Andrew Kaufman, Arnaud Camu, Aaron Wiltse, Chris Weldon, Amanda Mayo, Jason Barnes, Nathan Golden, Noah Stern, Tracy Nelson Wirth and Devon Kapoor.
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