U.S. judge lets most emissions claims against Daimler proceed

February 4, 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge allowed most claims against Daimler AG to move forward in a 2016 lawsuit by vehicle owners that claims the German automaker’s Mercedes diesel vehicles used illegal software to emit excess emissions.

In a ruling late on Friday, Judge Jose Linares of U.S. District Court in New Jersey also said that claims against auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH can proceed, rejecting a bid by the German companies to throw out the lawsuits.

There has been growing scrutiny of diesel vehicles in the United States since Volkswagen AG admitted in September 2015 to installing secret software on 580,000 U.S. vehicles that allowed them to emit excess emissions.

Steve Berman, one of the lawyers representing Mercedes U.S. diesel owners, said “like Volkswagen, Mercedes tried to scam consumers by green-washing its line of diesel cars. With the help of some crafty marketing, and Bosch’s defeat device, the duo set out to rake in profits from unknowing purchasers.”

Daimler spokeswoman Andrea Berg said Monday, “These claims are without merit, and we are pleased that the court recognized the deficiencies in some of plaintiffs’ claims. We intend to continue vigorously defending against the remaining claims.”

Bosch, which makes software for Daimler, VW and other automakers’ diesel emissions systems, declined to comment Monday.

The Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board and German prosecutors in Stuttgart are investigating Daimler for alleged excess emissions in Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles.

Daimler has acknowledged it faces investigations in Germany and the United States. In October, Daimler said operating profit would fall by more than 10 percent, blaming “government proceedings and measures in various regions” related to diesel emissions issues.

In 2017, Daimler abandoned plans to seek U.S. approval to sell new Mercedes-Benz U.S. light-duty diesel models.

VW pleaded guilty in the emissions scandal and agreed to spend more than $25 billion in the United States to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV last month agreed to a settlement worth about $800 million to resolve claims from the Justice Department and California that it used illegal software that produced false results on diesel-emissions tests, but still faces an ongoing criminal probe.

Last month, Bosch agreed to pay nearly $131 million to settle claims from Fiat Chrysler diesel owners and resolve all investigations by 47 U.S. state attorneys general into its involvement with diesel vehicles, including into the Volkswagen emissions cheating.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)