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High Court diesel emissions scandal could lead the way for over 1.2million claims for vehicle owners

The High Court has ruled that legal claims against Mercedes and two additional vehicle manufacturers, to be determined at a later date, will go ahead as the lead claims in the diesel emissions scandal, with a first trial potentially taking place in February 2025.

The decision is a major development in the group claims being brought by 1.2 million UK vehicle owners against 16 car global manufacturing groups over alleged attempts to cheat emissions tests by using prohibited ‘defeat devices’ in their vehicles.

The unprecedented scale of the claims led to the High Court calling a one-day hearing on Friday 8 December to simplify the management of the claims in order to reduce costs and delays and ensure efficient use of court resources.

Group Litigation Orders, which allow individual claims by vehicle owners to be managed as a group, had previously been running independently against each manufacturer, with concerns raised about significant overlap between many of the legal, factual and technical issues involved.

The hearing, presided over by the President of the Kings Bench Division, Dame Victoria Sharp, ruled that the claim against Mercedes should proceed as the lead Group Litigation Order (GLO), along with two ‘additional lead GLOs’. These additional lead GLOs, relating to two other emissions cases, should be identified and agreed by all parties as soon as possible ahead of further hearings in January 2024.

All other existing GLO applications and any prospective GLO applications related to the claims will be heard at a three-day consolidated hearing on 17-19 January 2024.

Lawyers representing the vehicle owners argued at the 8 December hearing that making Mercedes the lead claim would allow a large number of common legal and factual issues, applicable across the other emissions cases, to be resolved more efficiently and cost effectively.

The emissions cases named as the additional lead GLOs will also progress so that they will be ready for a trial of issues after the Mercedes case has concluded. This is to avoid undue delay if the Mercedes litigation settles and will also allow for resolution of any issues which do not arise in the Mercedes case.

The court also ordered that the parties liaise with a view to agreeing terms for sharing as much confidential information across the different group claims as possible ahead of the next hearings in January 2024. Any disputes relating to the scope and nature of confidentiality within the Mercedes GLO and other claims will be dealt with at a Case Management Conference (CMC) hearing on 19 January 2024 which will be attended by representatives of the claimant and defendant groups.

A further hearing in March 2024, to include the additional lead GLOs, will hear issues relating to sample vehicles and whether they contained prohibited ‘defeat devices’. It will also consider the timetable for future hearings, including a potential trial in February 2025, as well as issues around costs, information disclosure and any other legal arguments.

Martyn Day, senior partner at Leigh Day, said: “I am pleased the High Court is clearly looking to move the emission claims forward at a reasonable pace. The car manufacturers’ main ambition seems to be to delay proceedings wherever they can. In ordering that Mercedes can carry on unencumbered by the follow-on cases, and that two additional cases be chosen to move along with it, will ensure that the claims as a whole are likely to be resolved in the next couple of years with a first trial regarding the defeat devices potentially being held early in 2025.”

The emissions claims, referred to as NOx Group Litigation, have been issued against the following vehicle manufacturing groups: Mercedes, Vauxhall/Opel, Nissan/Renault, Volkswagen/Porsche, Peugeot/Citroën, Jaguar/Land Rover, Ford, BMW, FCA/Suzuki, Volvo, Hyundai-Kia, Toyota and Mazda. 

The law firms representing claimants that made joint submissions at the hearing are Leigh Day, which is bringing proceedings against 9 of the manufacturer groups; Pogust Goodhead, which is bringing claims against 13 manufacturer groups; Milberg LLP and Hausfield & Co LLP. Together, the firms will be jointly representing over 1.2 million people.


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