WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday turned away appeals from Volkswagen that sought to stop state and local lawsuits related to the 2015 scandal in which the automaker was found to have rigged its vehicles to cheat U.S. diesel emissions tests.
The court's action allows suits by Ohio, Salt Lake County, Utah, and the environmental protection agency in Hillsborough County, Florida, which includes Tampa, to continue. A lower court said Volkswagen could face “staggering liability” over the state and local claims.
The company argued that federal law gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, not state and local officials, authority to regulate its conduct.
German-based Volkswagen ultimately paid more than $23 billion in fines and settlements with federal regulators, the company said in its court filings.
It now is facing additional suits from state and local governments over its admission that it installed on 585,000 new cars sold in the U.S., and on more than 11 million cars worldwide, software that turns on pollution controls during government tests and shuts them off on the road.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the suits from Florida and Utah could continue over software updates that Volkswagen installed to allow the deception to continue, when owners took their vehicles in for service or recalls.
In a separate case, the Ohio Supreme Court also rejected Volkswagen's arguments in ruling that the federal Clean Air Act does not preempt the state's claim that Volkswagen violated Ohio's anti-air pollution laws.
The justices offered no comment on the rejection, other than to note that Justice Stephen Breyer did not participate. His brother, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, has handled some of the lawsuits.