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Stanford professors sue Volkswagen for cheating emissions tests

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Two Stanford professors filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen following the company’s admission of its use of deceptive software to cheat emissions tests.

An Environmental Protection Agency investigation found that the software, which was built into the diesel car engines, turned on emissions control systems only when emissions testing was occurring in the area. Due to the large amount of time during which the systems remain off, the cars may be releasing up to 40 times more emissions than is allowed by the Clean Air Act.

Bernadette Meyler J.D. ’03, a Stanford law professor, and her husband Matthew Smith, an associate professor of German studies and in the theater and performance studies department, consequently filed a class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen. The couple owns a 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI.

As of Sept. 27, 34 lawsuits had been filed against the automotive giant.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Frank Pitre, a representative from the Burlingame law firm handling the couple’s case – Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy – said that Meyler and Smith specifically do not wish to sell their Passat. Instead, the couple hopes that the company will buy the car off of them.

“Morally, they’re passing along the same polluting vehicle to someone else, and the environment will still be hurt in an alarming rate [if they were to sell it],” Pitre said.

Volkswagen’s Electronic Research Lab in Belmont may be the source of the devices, which have been used in over 11 million Golf, Passat, Audi A3, Jetta and Beetle models since 2009. Five hundred thousand cars in the United States alone have now been recalled.

The scandal has led to a $22.4 billion drop in the market value of Volkswagen as well as the resignation of Martin Winterkorn, who had been CEO of the company since 2007. He stepped down on Sept. 23, just three days after the company admitted to its knowledge of the deceptive software. He remains the CEO of Volkswagen’s primary shareholder, Porsche Automobil Holding SE. The company’s new CEO, Matthias Mueller, took over last Friday. Mueller is working to ensure that the lines of reporting within Volkswagen are reformed and that its 12 brand groups will be more receptive to customer needs in the future.

 

Contact Rebecca Aydin at raydin ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Rebecca Aydin, a writer for the University/Local beat and a senior hailing from NYC, is pursuing a major in English and a minor in Psychology. She has written for the Chicago Tribune and Worldcrunch, a digital news magazine based in Paris. On campus, she is the editor-in-chief of MINT style and culture magazine. This is her fourth year writing for The Stanford Daily. Contact her at raydin ‘at’ stanford.edu.