BERLIN — Lawyers representing owners of tainted Volkswagen diesel-powered cars in Germany filed the first lawsuit seeking consumer compensation for damages from the car maker’s diesel scandal in a test case that could turn up pressure on it to compensate millions of European customers.
Volkswagen has agreed to pay around 535,000 U.S. consumers and car dealers compensation valued at nearly $20 billion, but has refused to make any similar offer to its nearly nine million customers in Europe affected by the emissions-cheating scandal.
If the German lawsuit succeeds, it could snowball into additional claims and Volkswagen’s costs to resolve the diesel scandal could rise significantly.
German consumer-advocacy firm MyRight filed the lawsuit on Tuesday against Volkswagen AG, demanding damages on behalf of a single VW buyer affected by its cheating scandal, the Braunschweig district court confirmed.
Germany doesn’t have U.S.-style class-action rules. Instead, a court will hear the case of a single plaintiff, which is then used as a model for litigation affecting other damaged parties. MyRight said it had also collected demands from about 100,000 other customers.
MyRight commissioned Hausfeld Rechtsanwälte LLP to handle the claims. Hausfeld is a subsidiary of the U.S. law firm that was part of the Joint Plaintiffs Committee that represented U.S. consumers in the Volkswagen class-action litigation.
The Hausfeld attorneys in the filing are demanding Volkswagen compensate their client for the full purchase price of EUR41,000 plus interest and legal fees, according to the court filing that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Volkswagen said it was aware of MyRight’s announcement but couldn’t comment because it hadn’t been served with the lawsuit.
Volkswagen, which has admitted to having installed illegal emissions-cheating software in more 11 million vehicles, faces lawsuits from authorities and consumers in many countries, but only a limited number of plaintiffs have brought individual lawsuits in Germany.
Volkswagen has rejected European car buyers’ demands for compensation and denied they suffered damages because of different regulations than those in the U.S. The company offered European customers only technical remedies for cars with the cheating software.