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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Alabama Supreme Court upholds dismissal of state's case against Volkswagen AG over tampering claims

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By Charmaine Little | Dec 27, 2018


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) – The Supreme Court of Alabama determined one of the state of Alabama’s claims against Volkswagen AG was blocked by the Clean Air Act and affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of the complaint on Dec. 14.

Justice Kelli Wise authored the opinion as Circuit Judge Lyn Stuart and Justices Greg Shaw, Michael Bolin and William Sellers concurred. 

The state of Alabama challenged the dismissal from the Jefferson Circuit Court after that entity dismissed its allegations against VWAG in a suit initially filed in September 2016 over tampering claims.

The state initially claimed VWAG meddled with emission-control systems or obliged third parties to do so for cars that were licensed and registered in Alabama. It also claimed Alabama Environmental Management Act “vests the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) with the authority to administer and enforce the AAPCA (Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies) and the authority to establish rules and regulations governing emission-control systems for vehicles,” according to the opinion.

It alleged that ADEM had set policies in place to oversee emission-control systems in the Alabama Administrative Code and that VWAG infringed on these policies.

The state filed its first complaint before submitting the second amended complaint. Count two is the one specifically in question for this ruling that the lower court dismissed on behalf of VWAG and the state appealed.

Count two claims that VWAG or someone working for the company permitted the disconnection of the exhaust emission control system, the installation or change of software used in vehicles violates Alabama law, VWAG has confessed to installing defeat device software and that the software makes certain emission control systems inoperative under certain conditions.

Still, the Supreme Court agreed with VWAG’s argument that the claim is preempted by the CAA, and affirmed the dismissal of the case. “…Allowing the state to proceed under count two of the second amended complaint would stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress,” the court determined. 

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