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Oklahoma AG Pruitt Files His Own Lawsuit Against Volkswagen, Hoping For A Better Deal

Volkswagen cars are on display at Cable Volkswagen in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Volkswagen cars are on display at Cable Volkswagen in Oklahoma City.

Volkswagen’s $15 billion settlement of lawsuit into allegations it cheated emissions tests, which spurred a national investigation, won’t include Oklahoma.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed his own lawsuit just two weeks before Volkswagen announced the settlement. The consumer protection complaint that will be heard in Oklahoma County isn’t part of the class action lawsuit, or 44-state investigation of the German automaker, The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports:

Oklahoma is asking for $7.71 million in penalties for the 3,855 registered and offending vehicles in the state, and another $10,000 per violation of state law. The lawsuit also asks the court to reimburse the state for research and investigation expenses, plus attorney fees. According to the lawsuit, Volkswagen deceived Oklahoma customers by promising low-emission diesel engines that were still powerful cars.

By passing on the settlement, Oklahoma is taking a chance that it could win better terms individually. A similar state who signed on to the settlement got $3.5 million. The AG’s office said Wednesday that Oklahoma’s lawsuit is the best way to make sure Volkswagen complies with state laws.

From Denwalt:

According to documents filed in Oklahoma County District Court, Volkswagen equipped several VW, Porsche and Audi diesel-powered vehicles with software that performed differently during emissions tests. During the testing phase, the vehicles met federal standards. “But when the vehicles operated under real-world driving conditions, the emissions control systems effectively disengaged, causing the vehicles to spew pollution … at as much as 40 times the thresholds allowed by U.S. emissions standards,” Pruitt argued.

Residents who bought the affected vehicles can still participate in the settlement through the buyback or lease termination programs. If Pruitt changes his mind, he has a month to sign on to the settlement. Volkswagen hasn’t replied to the local lawsuit yet.

Oklahoma has snubbed massive settlements before. In 2011, Oklahoma was the only state that didn’t participate in a national settlement agreement with housing lenders accused of unfair mortgage practices. Pruitt boasted that Oklahoma’s individual settlement brought in more money for residents, and more quickly.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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