Monday 23 April 2018

Volkswagen representatives walk out of Mayo court emissions case

Volkswagen (AP)
Volkswagen (AP)
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Legal representatives for Volkswagen walked out of court in Mayo today after labelling an ongoing court case regarding emissions as “entirely inappropriate and unfair”.

Barrister Paul Fogarty and two instructing solicitors from A&L Goodbody walked out of Castlebar District Court after Judge Mary Devins ruled that she would continue with the case.

Earlier Mr Fogarty told Judge Devins that his clients, Volkswagen Group Ireland and Volkswagen AG had obtained legal advice that the court had no jurisdiction to take the case.

He said that as a result representatives were not present in court and the defence would be calling no witnesses.

Mr Fogarty said his clients also took the view that there were serious issues in relation to orders previously made by the court in the case and raised concerns about the manner in which evidence would be given by witnesses for the claimant. He said the manner of the case was “highly unconventional”.

He informed Judge Devins that the respondents would be seeking a judicial review in the matter.

Judge Devins said the case would continue “without Hamlet” and later referred to the actions of the legal team as a “spectacular walk out”

The case, before Castlebar District Court is being taken by mother of three Eithne Higgins Croghan, Boyle, Co Roscommon.

She is seeking compensation after Volkswagen admitted cheating on emissions tests last year. 

The case will deal with whether there was an issue with carbon dioxide (CO2) and / or oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions on the vehicle in question.

Ms Higgins’ claim states that there may be implications in respect to the payment of Vehicle Registration Tax or road tax as a result of incorrect emissions data.

The court heard that after the emission revelations emerged she attempted to trade in her car at three different garages, each time unsuccessfully.

Evan O'Dwyer, representing Ms Higgins criticised the respondents and their legal representation, stating that he and his client had been ‘bullied’. He also criticised the manner in which the respondents had treated the court by arriving late on one occasion, failure to make a witness available, failure to provide adequate data and the failure of the respondents to attend court. He also claimed he had received letters from A&L Goodbody threatening him with contempt while Ms Higgins had received three letters stating the company would pursue her for costs if she proceeded with the case.

“There has been a system of bullying going on in this case from the beginning. Bullying of Ms Higgins, myself and laterally this court. Attempts have been made to goad this court so that a judicial review could be sought.

“They are trying to set-up this court for a judicial review,” he added.

He added that the quality of information provided by Volkswagen “belittles” the court.

A statement from Volkswagen Group Ireland’s technical services manager Stephen McDonnell was read into the record. Mr McDonnell did not attend despite having been directed by the judge to do so.

His statement stressed that CO2 emissions were not linked to the NOx emissions.

However, this was dismissed by emissions expert Horace Calvert Stinson who said it didn’t stack up with theory, practice or experience.

He stressed the issue of  CO2 and NOx could not be separated adding they were “intimately related” and were completely interdependent on each other.

Dr Calvert Stinson said the data provided by Volkswagen was not sufficient in this case and was not fit for purpose.

This was also the view of Michael Lehmann who was involved in the Volkswagen litigation in the US. He said the level of information provided to the court fell well below the data provided for similar cases in the US adding that there was a “complete absence of hard data”.

The case continues tomorrow.

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