A county Mayo court has recently directed car manufacturer Volkswagen to disclose information regarding emissions in what is the first reported court case arising out of the Volkswagen emissions scandal in the country.
The case arises from the revelations last Autumn that Volkswagen had allegedly installed software in diesel cars to trick emissions testers in the US. Subsequently, thousands of vehicles have been recalled in Ireland. It has been suggested that an estimated 9,000 Irish-registered Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda vehicles could be subject to increased tax due to the underrated carbon dioxide emissions.
At Castlebar District Court on 7 June 2016 Judge Mary Devins adjourned the case of a woman who is seeking compensation from Volkswagen as a result of its alleged cheating on emissions tests. The plaintiff is claiming that she has paid incorrect amounts of Vehicle Registration Tax and Motor Tax and is also claiming for monetary loss, damages for future increased tax charges and inconvenience.
After submissions from both sides Judge Devins said that the central issue was whether the claimant’s car was affected by carbon dioxide emissions or with nitrous oxide emissions. She determined that the only way to know this was to get an expert report. Judge Devins said that if there was no issue then a line would be drawn under the matter, however, if there was an issue, evidence would have to be offered setting out the reasons for the irregularities or discrepancies in the car.
Judge Devins granted an order for discovery so that all documentary, original, technical and expert evidence would be provided to the plaintiff. Counsel for Volkswagen objected to the scale of the discovery sought describing it as “extremely substantial” and requested a time frame of twelve weeks to produce the evidence. However, the judge directed that all material be made available within six weeks. The next date for hearing is scheduled for 6 September 2016 unless Volkswagen appeals the discovery order.
The case will be followed closely by car owners (and plaintiff lawyers) with thousands of Irish car owners potentially affected. With the likelihood of increases in the levels of Vehicle Registration Tax and Road Tax, car owners will be interested to see if Volkswagen will be ordered to compensate the plaintiff for these additional tax liabilities not to mention the Court’s ruling on the potential impact of the higher tax band on the car’s resale value.
Contributed by Richard Breen