S&C Wins Dismissal of Wyoming Emissions Claims Against Volkswagen

August 31, 2017

On August 31, S&C registered another win for client Volkswagen AG and its subsidiary Audi in a California district court against the state of Wyoming. The milestone is the latest achieved by S&C, Volkswagen’s national coordinating counsel in its diesel emissions matters.

S&C persuaded Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California to dismiss all claims brought by Wyoming against Volkswagen and Audi. Wyoming alleged that emissions “defeat devices” in new diesel vehicles violated Wyoming environmental laws, and sought potentially billions of dollars in penalties beyond those already imposed by federal regulators. The court held that Wyoming’s claims were preempted by Section 209(a) of the federal Clean Air Act. The dismissal is particularly significant because its reasoning applies to lawsuits filed by nine other states, together with various counties, that are pending in courts across the country and likewise seek potentially enormous penalties. The court observed that “penalties could total $44.85 million per day and $16.4 billion per year. And that is just Wyoming.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the decision “could put to rest a sizable risk the German auto maker faced,” and the German press agency Deutsche Presse Agentur described the decision as “a victory which could save the German automotive giant billions of dollars in payouts.” 

Volkswagen and Audi are now seeking dismissal of the other states’ and counties’ actions; dismissal motions against Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio were filed the same day that the Wyoming decision was issued.

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