VW Diesel Fraud–New filing: Bricker v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

Catching up. Last week, we filed Bricker v. Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., U.S. District Court Case No. 3:15-cv-01785-PK (D. Or.) Along with my frequent collaborator, Oregon attorney Tim Quenelle, I joined forces with my friends at colleagues at Cohen & Malad from Indianapolis.

For those who like such things, here is a copy of the complaint: 1 – Complaint. The case is filed as a national class action. It protects the interests of anyone who purchased or leased one of the affected VW Group vehicles.

The case arises out of the well-publicized diesel engine fraud for Volkswagen “clean diesel” vehicles. In selling various VW and Audi diesel vehicles, the Volkswagen Group represented that these vehicles were high mileage and way low on emissions. As has been widely noted in the press, the high-dollar fraud rested upon sophisticated cheat code or defeat device that switched the vehicles’ operating modes when they were being operated in a parked condition for emissions testing.

The “clean” low-emissions mode did not and could not operate while actual consumers drove the vehicles. Instead of driving green, clean diesel cars, class members were driving dirty diesel vehicles that violated pollution standards.

People paid premium prices for these clean vehicles. In Oregon and Washington, especially, green consumers pay extra for earth-friendly products. VW hyped that clean, green technology in its sales and marketing efforts, and they made a mint. The clean diesel products pushed VW to the number one position in worldwide car sales.

No surprise that we’re hearing from a lot of people. We’ve developed an initial information email for those who have questions. Feel free to email me at david@davidsugerman.com if you need more information, and we’ll mail out the initial information. (I have not posted it here because doing so destroys confidentiality. And we really, really don’t want to do that.)

The case is almost certainly going to be treated as a multi-district litigation (“MDL”) case. When cases are assigned to the MDL, the rules and processes are different. Once it is assigned–probably not for a few months–I’ll update with more information.

In addition to our email packet, I would recommend connecting with us on Facebook if you are concerned about these issues. We tend to post there more frequently.  And of course, if our information and FB posts don’t answer your questions, feel free to call or email.


Update: Scharfstein v. BP West Coast Products (Oregon ARCO gas debit card fees)

There have been two important developments in our win over BP. The case involves illegal debit card charges for gas purchases at Oregon ARCO stations. Details on the history are here with a few additional posts here.

A bit of a summary first. Our claim process was a smashing success. Over 1.7 million people, roughly 83 percent of the class, made claims. That’s an awesome result in any class action.

So two things happened this month. First, the Oregon Legislature passed and Gov. Kate Brown signed HB 2700, a bill that changes how unclaimed money is handled in class actions. BP opposed the bill. Here is an awesome insider’s view of some of the many gyrations and personalities that BP hired to kill the bill. (Love the comments, especially!)

Anyway, the bill appears to apply to this case. BP disputes that, of course. So what does it mean? Well, it means that Judge LaBarre must sort out whether it applies and–if it does–how to go forward to finish what needs to be done before entry of judgment. As a lawyer who practices in these areas, I am fairly certain that the bill applies to our case. So that’s the easy part. Then comes the “Now what?” portion, and my guess is that that will slow entry of judgment.

The good news is that BP must pay 100 percent of the value of the verdict. They don’t get to keep the money. Better yet, the money goes to legal aid and other worthy related purposes to benefit consumers. Best of all, we are talking about roughly $60 million dollars.

The only downside is that it slows down our case somewhat, and it gives BP a big issue to argue on appeal. We don’t really get to choose here, so we’ll take the bitter with the sweet and move on toward wrapping everything up in the trial court. Not sure when that will be by the way. But after we get it wrapped up, BP has indicated that it will appeal. As we’ve said many times over, the appeal could take years. And of course, there is always a risk that BP will overturn the verdict on appeal.

But let’s be very clear about something: They want more fight? We got more fight. David is not intimidated by Goliath.

I mentioned two things happened. The second happened earlier this week. Judge LaBarre ruled on the fee petition. As we explained in the class notice, we were going to ask the court for no more than 20 percent, or $40 per class member.  Judge LaBarre granted part but not all of our requested fees.

Each class member’s share of fees is $35.15 or 17.57 percent. (If you want a comparison to an individual case, we usually charge individual consumers 33-40 percent, depending on whether the case settles before trial.) So when and if final payday comes around, each class member should receive $164.85, plus interest, if the case goes all way to the bitter end.

So that’s the news from the trenches. Thanks for your continuing patience. Keep in mind that we do updates on our Facebook page, so if you’re a user, you can find news there about this case and other pending major cases against KBR and Career Education Corp. If you’re a Twitter user, I am @DavidSug, though that’s not really a work account. Note that I do not offer legal advice in response to comments on our blog or on Facebook or Twitter. It’s not that I’m unwilling to answer questions. It’s more that we are required ot protect your confidentiality. And we take that seriously. So feel free to call (503.228.6474) or email me davidATdavidsugerman.com if you have questions.


BP class action update: Claim time!

The claim process has started in our consumer fraud class action against BP for illegal debit card fees at Oregon ARCO stations. We’re getting a lot of calls, emails, and questions on our Facebook page.

And on top of it all, ice and snow have moved into Portland. So it looks like I may not be able to get to my office to answer calls today.

A few details and updates.

1) One common question is “How do I make a claim?

There are two ways. If we recover your name and address, you’ll get a notice that says you’re in. If you get a letter, you don’t have to do anything more to make your claim.

The notices are starting to go out this week and will continue as we get more names and addresses. We have about 500,000 letters going out this week. I’m hoping that we’ll get another million names and addresses.

To keep your data secure, I do not have direct access to it, so I can’t look up whether we’ve recovered your data.

For those people whose records we do not recover, you will need to file a claim form. Very important: We can’t file for you because you need to fill out the form.

Here is the link to the claim form

2) More information

The official court-approved website is here

FAQ’s on the official website are here.

If you want more of a flavor of the history of this fight, you can read blog posts collected here.

3) What will consumers who make claims get?

The jury verdict means a maximum of $200 for each consumer who paid the illegal debit card fee between January 1, 2011 and August 30, 2013. The court may deduct up to $40 from each claim to contribute to fees and expenses. We’re asking the court to order BP to pay all the fees–we don’t know how the court will rule. Bottom line: Depending on the court’s ruling, each person who makes a valid claim will get $160-200.

4) When do I get my money?

Great question. Don’t go spending it yet. BP tells us they will appeal. That may well take years. If BP wins on appeal, we may not collect a dime. (And by “we,” I mean you and me!) But if we keep winning, you also get interest at 9 percent on your claim.

5) What’s next?

We hope to finish the claim process by December 31. There is an attorney fee hearing in February. (Sorry, I don’t have the date at fingertips but will make sure it gets posted on the official site.)

We’re pleased with our progress, but there is far to go. My promise to you: Our legal team will keep fighting until we see this thing through.  We’ll also do our best to answer questions and get back to you, but we’re buried in this, so please be patient.

Best contact for me is david@davidsugerman.com or by phone 503.228.6474. Thanks for you patience and your support.

David Sugerman

BP ARCO class action: A straight-up win for consumers

On Friday, January 31, 2014, the jury returned its verdict in favor of BP Oregon ARCO and am-pm minimarket gas purchasers. The jury found that BP recklessly violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The 2.9 million class members are each entitled to make claims for $200. Media reports are here (OregonLive), here (KOIN-6), and here (KATU-2 pretrial)

Yes, that is a $580 million result. It is fair to say we are pleased. And proud.

We’re getting a lot of questions. I’ll try to answer some here.

So what’s next?

We are due back in court on March 7 to discuss the next round of proceedings. In the near future, we’ll start a claim form process. It’s really important that you file a claim form once the claim process opens. We do not know yet when that will happen, but we’ll note a number of resources for you here.

How do I stay informed?

We’ll continue to post updates here on this blog. We also add updates on our Facebook page. If you’re a user, like us there, and you’ll get updates and links back to the longer updates here.

You should also register with the official information page to receive official update information.

Do I need to take any action to protect my rights?

If you meet the class definition, you do not. We don’t know what requirements the court will set to prove claims. If you have access to receipts or bank records showing a gas debit card purchase with a transaction fee at Oregon ARCO or am-pm stations, it would be wise to save those documents. It may help you prove your claim.

When will consumers see their money?

Good question. BP has announced its intention to appeal. While the claim process could start as early as March (or maybe later), an appeal could string this out for years. That is why registration is important.

A few parting thoughts

We are deeply appreciative of the service provided by the jurors who served for three weeks in the trial in front of Hon. Jerome LaBarre. The entire case shows that a small group of determined consumers can take on a corporate giant like BP and have a fair trial in Oregon.

Further updates?

Well sure. When we know more, we’ll post it.

David Sugerman

BP Class Action Update: Class Notice

Finally. Class notice has started in our class action against BP. The case involves illegal debit card charges levied on Oregon gas purchasers. We’re suing under the Unlawful Trade Practices Act because BP violates the Oregon rules governing gasoline price advertising.

Here is a link to the class action notice website.

Trial is set to begin January 14, 2014. If we win, members of the class may be eligible to claim up to $200 for these illegal transactions. More detail as it becomes available. For those in the class, please visit the website. You might want to register there so that the administrator can contact you if that becomes important.

Want more information about the case? Go here and here.

Feel free to call us or email if you think you might be part of the class or if you have stories to share. I am lead counsel for the class.


David Sugerman

Update: Class members’ brief filed in consumer fraud case against Career Ed Corp and Western Culinary Institute

On our long-running consumer fraud class action against Career Education Corp and Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu Portland, I am pleased to report that we filed our answering brief in the Oregon Court of Appeals today. It’s a monster, and if the WordPress Gods are with me, it appears in PDF here: Brief – Answering FINAL

My dear friend and colleague, Maureen Leonard, joined our team to handle the briefing. The brief is her work, and it is a thing of beauty.

About the brief:

For consumers and class members-This is a technical brief on rules about procedure, appeals, and arbitration that might cause you to snooze. The gist is that Career Education Corp. was content to use the court system to enforce its rights and then when things were going bad, CEC sought to delay by filing another motion to compel arbitration.

For attorneys-The posture is such that this is something of a one-off brief and case. Still, if you want to see an appellate master at work, read Maureen’s work.

So next up is CEC/WCI/LCB-Portland reply brief. And then it is on to oral argument in front of a three-judge panel. We’ll keep you posted, of course.

David Sugerman

Food Poisoning: Townsend Farms

Very pleased to be working with Bill Marler, aka @bmarler, of Seattle’s Marler Clark LLC on a food poisoning Hepatitis A contamination case against Townsend Farms to be filed here in Oregon. I’ve long been a fan of Bill’s work. When I told my family I would be jumping this weekend, my teenage daughter described my excitement as a “man crush.” (Yikes!-that sounds kinda creepy.)

The case involves Hepatitis A contaminated fruit products sold through Costco stores. Townsend Farms manufactured the product. CDC recall information is here.

We will be filing a class action State court here in Oregon. Bill’s firm and the the Food Safety News blog are the best source of information on this litigation, though we will from time-to-time provide updates here as well.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

David Sugerman


Update: Career Education Corp files its appeal brief

For those interested, Career Education Corp and Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu Portland filed their appeal brief in our long-running consumer fraud class action, Surrett v. Western Culinary Institute. The brief is long and technical. It focuses on things like arbitration clauses and class action procedure. If you’re really interested, I’ve uploaded it here: Brief – CEC WCI Opening Brief.   (Note: if you’re interested enough to read it for fun, it occurs to me that you might need a hobby. But I digress.)

We are fortunate to have recruited Portland attorney Maureen Leonard to lead on the appeal. In addition to being a dear friend, Maureen is a talented and well-respected lawyer who limits her practice to appeals. We will file a responding brief, and then CEC/WCI files a reply. After their final brief, the appeal will be set for oral argument. There is no firm timeline for when we will be through the appeal process. That said, we are committed to the case and will see it through to the end.

I will post our completed brief once it is up and the occasional update when we have more news. Meantime, thanks for your interest and patience.


Update: Consumer fraud class action against Career Education Corp and Western Culinary

This is a longer update on our case against Career Education Corp. and Western Culinary Institute/Le Cordon Bleu Portland. It’s an update for those following the case, including members of the class.

Brian Campf and I were back in court Friday. Judge Baldwin issued a number of rulings from the bench.  As well, Career Education Corp. defendants are trying to appeal Judge Baldwin’s previous decision denying their motion to compel arbitration of the claims of roughly half of the class. Let’s take these dense things one at a time.

1) The Friday motions and rulings: Judge Baldwin heard and decided three motions on Friday. First, he granted in part our motion to compel production of discovery from an investigation report of Career Education Corp placement practices that had been disclosed earlier. This is a win for the class. We’re looking forward to reviewing this information.

The class lost two motions filed by Career Education Corp. Judge Baldwin granted in part a motion to allow the Career Education to do a survey of class members by mailing a questionnaire to members of the class. We opposed only because we believe that the form of the survey was confusing and potentially misleading. Judge Baldwin limited the questionnaire but has allowed them to go forward. While we disagree with Judge Baldwin’s ruling, we respect his authority and will cooperate with the process so that we can move forward to trial.

Judge Baldwin also granted a motion that removes approximately 300 people from the class. The 300 or so stopped attending and did not withdraw and thus were dismissed for attendance or academic reasons. The Court concluded that they should not be part of the class. We argued against the motion. While we disagree with this ruling, we recognize that Judge Baldwin has authority to make the choices that he made. As part of the process, those who are no longer part of the class will be sent notice informing them that they are out.

2) The new appeal: We learned on Friday that the Career Education defendants are appealing Judge Baldwin’s prior ruling denying their motion to move approximately half of the class into individual one-case-at-a-time arbitration. We won that argument and believe that Judge Baldwin correctly denied their motion. At the same time, the Career Education defendants sought to stay proceedings in the trial court while the appeal goes on. Appeals can take years, so it’s pretty apparent that they are simply trying to avoid our January trial date.

We’re in the process of moving to dismiss the appeal. We believe that they are not allowed to appeal the order in question. This is a technical, dry area of the law involving concepts of procedure and jurisdiction. We remain optimistic that the appeal will be dismissed and that we will stay on schedule. But even if the appeal goes forward, we will fight there too. So the bottom line on this is know that we are continuing forward, that we remain confident, and that Career Education Corp. can hire more lawyers, file more motions, and try to delay more. But they will not shake us off this case.

3) Parting thoughts: One of the things about the cases that we handle is that I have the luxury of choice. I will not take on a case unless I believe that it is right, and I will not pursue a case unless I believe it is important. But once we commit, we dig in. Stonewalling only makes us more determined. And so we dig deeper. And so we go on.

I’ll update when we have more news. By the way, we do more frequent and shorter updates on our major cases on Facebook. You can get that news if you are a Facebook user by liking us here. When I post on this blog, I generally leave a note on the FB page, so it’s also an easy way to keep up with this blog. As well, you can always follow me on Twitter @DavidSug, though that’s more of a personal account. I don’t always self-censor, so it’s definitely not for everyone.

Thanks for your continuing interest in this case and our work. We’ll let you know when we know more.