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Santa Barbara County Volkswagen Owners File Class-Action Lawsuit Over Emissions Software

Six Santa Barbara County residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen following the German automaker’s recent reprimand for installing illegal software, which allows newer diesel brand models to wrongfully pass emissions tests.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court by Santa Barbara law firm Cappello & Noël LLP, with car owners accusing several defendants of concealing fraud and violating California’s False Advertising Act and Unfair Competition Law.

Besides Volkswagen Group of America, the complaint also names Santa Barbara Volkswagen — where some defendants either bought their car or go for routine service — and Solazyme, Inc. and Amyris, Inc., the two California companies that tested affected models and said they were up to standard.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board charged Volkswagen (and its Audi brand) with circumventing emissions-test procedures to produce misleading pollution test results since 2009.

The company admitted to using a “defeat device,” which turned on full emissions controls only during emissions testing — meaning some models were emitting nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the EPA standard the rest of the time.

Volkswagen said this week as many as 11 million vehicles could be impacted worldwide, and the company set aside more than $7 billion to pay for recalls and other efforts.

Loss of vehicle value and poorer vehicle performance prompted the lawsuit filed on behalf of Santa Barbara residents Peter and Kelly Park, Kristen Salontay, Johanna Salontay, Jonathan Salontay and James Venturino.

All of the Volkswagen owners had affected models such as the Jetta Wagon TDI, Golf Hatchback TDI or Passat TDI Sedan.

“We chose to file in California state court here in Santa Barbara because there are California entities that VW worked with to ensure their emissions controls were meeting government standards,” said Leila Noël, partner of Cappello & Noël LLP.

“We believe these entities, along with the Volkswagen, knew the numbers were rigged. We have limited our case to California — most other firms are filing for a nationwide class.”

Noël estimated some 50,000 Californians bought impacted diesel Volkswagens.

“Volkswagen made claims about these cars that they knew were untrue to entice people to buy,” Noël said.

“Class members are now left with automobiles that are not only harming our environment, but are currently of little or no value.”

In the lawsuit, the group asks for individual relief and for defendants to stop selling or advertising impacted models.

Impacted cars include the VW Jetta (model years 2009-2015), VW Jetta Sportwagon (model years 25 2009-2014), VW Beetle (model years 2013-2015), VW Beetle Convertible (model years 2013- 26 2015), Audi A3 (model years 2010-2015), VW Golf (model years 2010-2015), VW Golf Sportwagon (model year 2015) and VW Passat (model years 2012-2015).

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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