Friday, April 28, 2017

Ongoing Case Highlight: In re Volkswagen Clean Diesel Mktg. Litig., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62144 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 24, 2017)


In the class action case involving Volkswagen's "defeat devices" in its "clean diesel" vehicles, there was a settlement that paid out attorney's fees for counsels representing class members. Attorneys for parties that did not join the class moved for an order to compel Volkswagen to pay attorney's fees for non-class parties.

The court denied the motion, because Volkswagen made no agreement to pay non-class party attorneys and the non-parties did not benefit the class as a whole. The court found that fielding calls from potential clients, some of whom joined the class, was not a benefit to the entire class. The court also found that monitoring and informing the case development was not sufficient to confer benefit to the entire class in a way that merits attorneys' fees.


Lesson here is simple: if you want attorneys' fees through a class action settlement, join the class. In a case like this, individual circumstances vary so much that at least some of the plaintiffs may have been a good reason not to join the class. But in most instances, I don't see a good reason for a plaintiff not to join the class in a case like this one.

What is this case's connection to Asia? Plaintiffs included Korean and Chinese nationals, who participated in the litigation through the class. U.S. courts often end up serving as a global clearinghouse for massive disputes, and this case is an example.

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