We knew there would be much litigation over the Volkswagen emissions scandal, but even we are shocked by the quantity and speed of the filings. As of our last check, PACER showed that Volkswagen has already been named as a defendant in 374 lawsuits in more 60 different federal courts since the scandal broke on September 18. In the words of Ron Burgundy, “Boy, that escalated quickly.”
There were a lot of firms angling to file their complaints quickly to beat the competition to be named lead attorneys when cases reach the consolidation phase. Nearly 200 cases were filed less than a week after the allegations surfaced. However, the clear winner of the 100 meter dash to the courthouse is the Seattle firm of Hagens Berman. PACER reveals that it filed a 27 page class action complaint on September 18, which is the very day the news was reported. Now that is some speedy complaint filing.
With so many class-action suits filed in so many different courts across the country, these cases will probably head to the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. In order to conserve resources, the panel will likely assign all of the cases to one federal judge. This action will avoid duplication of efforts for simple things such as pretrial hearings. In deciding where to assign the case, the panel will consider things such as the residency of the plaintiffs, the location of the evidence, and the availability of judges. Volkswagen of North America is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, so the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia may be a candidate for the handling these cases. We shall see.