Dieselgate consequences aren't over yet.
Not all Volkswagen diesel owners were satisfied with a reported $10 billion settlement offer and have instead opted to pursue their own separate lawsuit seeking greater compensatory and punitive damages. A total of 600,000 VW owners are involved here and a jury trial is set to get underway this week in San Francisco, California. Or, it may not. According to Bloomberg, those US vehicle owners suing VW over its 2015 diesel-emissions scandal now have a new, last-minute demand: the removal of the federal judge overseeing the case.
US District Judge Charles Breyer is now the center of attention because his "words and actions display a deep-seated favoritism that would make fair judgment impossible," says an attorney representing the plaintiffs. What did Breyer specifically say and do that warrants his removal from the case?
Several recent rulings made by Breyer have caused concern, one in particular. Breyer disqualified former FBI director Louis Freeh from being the plaintiff's expert witness for the case. Apparently, Freeh is "predisposed" toward the prior settlement. Freeh was initially hired back in 2016 by Volkswagen to help navigate the automaker through the fallout both legally and to help maintain its image.
Not surprisingly, VW has objected to the plaintiffs' demand to remove the judge, describing it as a "frivolous tactic" to delay the trial. "The opt-out plaintiffs and their lawyers are seeking an unjustified windfall," Volkswagen spokesman Mark Clothier said in a statement. There's no doubt Volkswagen wants nothing more than to finally move on from Dieselgate once and for all.
It's already shelled out $30 billion in fines and admitted to using defeat devices on about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to give false readings during emissions tests. Some of the German automaker's most popular vehicles were affected, among them the VW Golf, VW Passat, and VW Jetta. At the time, all were offered with a diesel engine.
Whether or not the plaintiffs' judge removal request will be granted or not is just one part of a greater saga that is still ongoing over five years since it first erupted.