Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

San Francisco — A US jury in California has awarded the drivers of four Volkswagen vehicles a total of $100,000 as punitive damages for being sold diesel vehicles that emitted excess pollution, though the amount awarded was a fraction of what was sought.

The drivers, three individuals and a couple, are among about 350 people who opted out of a $10bn US class-action settlement with the German carmaker which agreed to buy back hundreds of thousands of its cars after it admitted to using illegal software to cheat US pollution tests in September 2015.

The five were part of an initial trial of 10 plaintiffs, aimed at setting a pattern to resolve the remaining claims. The jury had earlier this month awarded the five a total of $5,747 in compensatory damages.

VW said Monday it was pleased the jury had rejected most of the owners’ demands but that it would appeal to have the figure reduced.

“These plaintiffs had minimal losses and were rightfully denied the unjustified windfall they were seeking. Plaintiffs’ counsel today asked for punitive damages in the millions of dollars,” Volkswagen said on Monday.

“The jury correctly refused that request. Even so, this award exceeds clear constitutional limits and we will ask the court to reduce it accordingly.”

Lawyers for the owners who sued did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The class-action settlements the drivers opted out of covered nearly 600,000 US diesel vehicles.

The scandal has so far cost VW more than €30bn ($34.2bn) in fines, penalties and buyback costs. In May 2019, it set aside an additional €5.5bn in contingent liabilities as it continued to face penalties and claims around the world.

Separately, Volkswagen and the US Securities and Exchange Commission said on Monday they could not reach a settlement to resolve the commission’s suit accusing Volkswagen and its former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, of defrauding investors in US bond offerings. The commission and Volkswagen proposed a schedule that would potentially see the case go to trial in 2023.

Last week, a federal judge approved a separate $96.5m settlement between Volkswagen and owners of 98,000 vehicles that had fuel economy labels that overstated efficiency.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency said Volkswagen must forfeit greenhouse gas emissions credits and lower the fuel economy ratings on those vehicles after it said vehicle software overstated real-world performance.

Reuters

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