S&C Secures Another Victory Ending Emissions Claims Against Volkswagen and Audi

April 16, 2018

On April 16, S&C achieved another successful result for client Volkswagen and Audi, convincing Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California to dismiss all claims brought by Salt Lake County, Utah, and Hillsborough County, Florida, concerning ongoing diesel emissions issues. The ruling is yet another victory rejecting state and local governments' attempts to assert environmental claims that are preempted by federal law. This victory builds on an August 2017 ruling against Wyoming and a December ruling by a state court in Alabama. S&C has served as Volkswagen's national coordinating counsel in its diesel emissions matters since 2015.

S&C successfully argued that claims based on software updates flashed out to entire model years of vehicles are impliedly preempted by the Clean Air Act because Congress intended that only the EPA (or California's equivalent agency) would regulate manufacturers' conduct with respect to nationwide models of vehicles. Because the counties here were attempting to regulate Volkswagen's model-wide conduct—conduct that the EPA and California's agency had in fact already comprehensively addressed—Judge Breyer concluded that those claims are preempted.

Volkswagen and Audi are now bringing this decision to the attention of the state courts around the country adjudicating similar claims.

The S&C team was led by Bob Giuffra, who argued the motion, and David Rein, and also included Matthew Schwartz, William Wagener and Judson Littleton.