The Globalization of Mass Civil Litigation

S&C’s successful litigation strategy for Volkswagen serves as case study July 2, 2021

The emergence of transnational mass litigation raises critical issues. Parallel proceedings in multiple national jurisdictions, arising out of a common event or set of facts, will likely increase and require new models for resolving these claims. A new report, “The Globalization of Mass Civil Litigation,” provides a detailed survey of this topic, using the Volkswagen “clean diesel” litigation as a case study.

This report is a product of a conference sponsored by Stanford Law School, the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, and the RAND Kenneth R. Feinberg Center for Catastrophic Risk Management and Compensation that included participants from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, as well as the United States. S&C Vice-Chair Robert Giuffra Jr., who is leading Volkswagen through mass litigation over its diesel emissions issues, shared his views and experience in the discussions.

The report includes a chapter on “Lessons from the Volkswagen ‘Clean Diesel’ Litigation.” These lessons include that the global mass Volkswagen litigation is not a “one-off” and that potential plaintiffs in different countries increasingly expect the same compensation that those in other countries have received, regardless of differences in substantive law or regulation.

Read the full report: The Globalization of Mass Civil Litigation: Lessons from the Volkswagen "Clean Diesel" Case 

S&C’s Crisis Management and Products Liability & Mass Tort Practices

Our Crisis Management Group draws on its unparalleled experience from across the Firm’s practices, providing comprehensive advice to help clients anticipate, manage and resolve corporate crises in all of their dimensions. Potential crisis situations, investigations and litigation with potentially devastating consequences routinely implicate legal issues beyond the initial subject matter and require multidisciplinary expertise to resolve effectively and efficiently. S&C lawyers' business acumen, expertise in developing transactional and litigation strategies and history of working effectively with the full range of government authorities have made S&C the pre-eminent law firm for companies facing franchise-threatening crises.

Our Products Liability & Mass Torts Group guides some of the world's biggest companies through their toughest problems across multiple jurisdictions and disparate issues. We partner with our clients to quickly gain a comprehensive understanding of the facts underlying a case and the client's business objectives. Every client's situation is given a tailored approach. For Volkswagen, which chose us as National Coordinating Counsel, we swiftly eliminated most of the company's liability with a series of settlements that allowed the auto giant to focus on its core business objectives and put the past behind it.

Robert Giuffra Jr. is Vice-Chair of Sullivan & Cromwell. For more than 25 years he has represented prominent corporations and individuals in their most challenging civil and criminal cases, including at jury and bench trials, and on appeal in federal and state courts around the United States, before arbitration panels, and in government investigations, including those involving the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. He regularly advises senior executives and boards of directors on crisis management and in internal governance matters. Bob is National Coordinating Counsel for Volkswagen in its diesel-related matters and is lead counsel to Fiat Chrysler in its emissions issues.