Volkswagen, Audi to pay $80 Million to settle suits over leaks, faulty drainage
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
BY PETER J. SAMPSON
THE RECORD STAFF WRITER
NEWARK – Volkswagen and Audi will pay out more than $80 million to settle a pair of class action lawsuits over leaky sunroofs and faulty drainage systems involving 3 million automobiles built between 1997 and 2009, lawyers for the plaintiffs said Tuesday.
The settlement, which caps more than three years of litigation, provides about $70 million in reimbursements and vehicle modifications, maintenance instructions to prevent future water damage, and nearly $10 million in fees and expenses to the attorneys representing the class.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz approved the final settlement on Monday.
The two class action suits were filed in May 2007 and later consolidated. They alleged design defects in the sun roof and fresh air plenum drainage systems that led to clogging of drains and drain valves, resulting in damage to vehicle interiors and to certain electronic components.
“For years, they would basically tell people it’s your fault, and blame them for failing to keep their cars clear of leaves, pine needles and debris,” said class counsel Adam M. Slater of Roseland. “They called it outside influences.”
Slater, along with Samuel P. Sporn of New York City, represented 5.5 million owners and lessees of the defective VW and Audi models manufactured over a 13-year period.
“We turned the tables through many depositions of people working for Audi and Volkswagen [who] admitted the reason this was happening was because of the design” and construction of the drain systems and valves, Slater said.
“One of the key parts of the settlement is they’ve now told all these millions of people here’s how to keep these drains clean,” he said. “But the reason they weren’t doing that, according to the depositions, was because if they admit it’s a maintenance issue, it also makes it a warranty issue [and] they would have had to pay a lot of warranty claims they weren’t paying.”
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