Heygood, Orr & Pearson partner Michael Heygood joins Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in California MDL over Volkswagen emissions cheating

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by Eric Pearson

Heygood, Orr & Pearson partner Michael Heygood has been named to the team of attorneys selected to help oversee the California litigation involving the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal. Judge Charles Breyer appointed Mr. Heygood to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee that will oversee pretrial matters in the Volkswagen Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Mr. Heygood was chosen from among 150 attorneys nationwide who had applied for a position on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Volkswagen MDL. Mr. Heygood will join 21 other attorneys that have been designated to help oversee the California litigation against Volkswagen.

The litigation against Volkswagen over the company’s emissions cheating on VW, Audi, and Porsche diesel models is one of the largest consumer fraud litigation cases in U.S. history. Attorney Stephen Toll of Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll said that Judge Breyer’s task of choosing the attorneys who would serve on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Volkswagen MDL would be difficult given the many experienced attorneys who had submitted their name for consideration. Mr. Toll was not selected for the committee, however. Nor was former Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards, now an attorney with Edwards Kirby in North Carolina, whose bid to join the team of attorneys named to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee had drawn attention from the media.

Mr. Heygood’s selection to the Volkswagen MDL Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee is a testament to his expertise and experience in handling massive multidistrict litigation cases. Commenting on his selection process at a recent hearing, Judge Breyer stated that his choice of attorneys for the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee was a testament to the character and abilities of each of the attorneys that will be involved in the committee. “I don’t pick law firms, I pick lawyers,” Judge Breyer said in a five hour hearing in which the committee members were chosen.

During the hearing, attorneys were admitted to the courtroom in groups of 10 at a time. Each attorney was allowed two minutes to make their case to Judge Breyer as to why they should be chosen for the Steering Committee. The gallery at the San Francisco federal courthouse where the committee selection took place was packed shoulder-to-shoulder for the hearing, with attorneys who submitted their names to be chosen for the committee standing in the aisles and streaming out of the courtroom and into the hall outside.

Volkswagen Admits to Emissions Cheating on “TDI Clean Diesel” Models

In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted that it had installed a “defeat device” on 11 million VW and Audi diesel vehicles worldwide—including 580,000 sold in the U.S. This “defeat device” was a piece of software that adjusted emissions levels on VW’s “TDI Clean Diesel” models when the cars underwent emissions testing, making them appear to emit lower levels of greenhouse gas pollutants than they actually did. Subsequent testing revealed that the “clean diesel” models released as much as 40 more pollution than what is allowed by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.

The vehicles involved in the VW diesel recall included the 2010-2015 Audi A3 TDI, the 2012-2015 Volkswagen Beetle TDI, the 2012-2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible TDI, the 2010-2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI, the 2009-2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the 2009-2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportswagen TDI, and the 2012-2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI.

In November 2015, an EPA investigation revealed that additional diesel-powered models that were not included in the original recall were affected by Volkswagen’s emissions cheating. Additional vehicles that were found to be equipped with a “defeat device” included the 2009-2016 Volkswagen Touareg TDI, the 2014-2016 Audi A6 Quattro, the 2014-2016 Audi A7 Quattro, the 2014-2016 Audi A8 Quattro, the 2014-2016 Audi A8L Quattro, the 2014-2016 Audi Q5 Quattro, the 2009-2016 Audi Q7, and the 2013-2015 Porsche Cayenne.

Volkswagen announced that it would recall the vehicles that had been equipped with the “defeat device” in order to bring them into compliance with federal environmental laws. VW is currently negotiating with the EPA and other environmental regulators in order to formulate a plan to recall the affected models and fix the problems created by its emissions cheating. However, because lowering the emissions levels of these vehicles will likely cause a drastic reduction in the performance and drivability of these models, owners of the recalled vehicles will likely see a significant reduction in the value of their cars even after the recall is complete.

Lawsuits against Volkswagen Filed by VW, Audi, Porsche Owners

Consumers who purchased or leased one of the VW, Audi, or Porsche “clean diesel” models involved in the Dieselgate emissions cheating scandal may be eligible to file a lawsuit against Volkswagen. The first step in taking legal action is to secure the services of an attorney with the knowledge and experience in handling class action and product liability litigation to help guide you through the process of filing a case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have already filed lawsuits on behalf of our clients in connection with the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal. Mr. Heygood and the other attorneys at the firm plan to remain involved in the MDL against Volkswagen throughout the litigation process as we work with our clients to achieve a fair resolution to these cases.

During their careers, the attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have taken on some of the largest corporation in the world on behalf of our clients, including multinational pharmaceutical companies and some of the world’s largest automakers. We believe that everyone who has been the victim of wrongful corporate actions should be entitled to effective legal representation to ensure that their legal rights our fully protected.

If you purchased or leased a VW, Audi, or Porsche diesel vehicle involved in the emissions cheating scandal, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation. For a free legal consultation about your case and to find out whether you qualify to file a lawsuit, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form to get started right away.