Law 360: Drivers Say Some VW Engines Stall In Traffic

May 28, 2020

Law360 (May 28, 2020,  5:30 PM EDT) -- A proposed class of drivers on Thursday accused Volkswagen Group of America Inc. of selling vehicles with an engine defect, saying they experienced stalling when they slowed down and had to pay out of pocket for repairs.

Marilyn Dickinson and Kate Conroy told the Northern District of New York that Volkswagen should have been aware of the defect due to its own testing and consumer complaints to the carmaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, yet it hasn't offered a recall or to repair the defect — instead concealing it from drivers while touting the safety of the vehicles.

According to the complaint, the engines have a defect that prevents the variable valve timing system from correcting and adjusting the timing of camshafts to allow oil to flow through the engine properly, which causes the engine to stall.

Dickinson told the court that shortly after she bought her 2019 Volkswagen Jetta, it stalled at least 25 times, typically as she slowed down for traffic lights, stop signs or to turn into driveways.

When the vehicle stalled, she said she had to wait several minutes before being able to restart it, and when she took her car to the dealership for repairs, she had to pay $1,919 in repairs after the dealership denied her warranty request.

Rather than acknowledge the defect, the dealer implied she did not know how to drive a manual transmission vehicle, while Dickinson said she'd been driving them for 40 years.

Conroy, likewise, said her 2019 Volkswagen Tiguan stalled when she attempted to make U-turns, and when she brought the car to her dealership she was told there was no problem with the vehicle. Conroy's vehicle had an automatic transmission.

While Volkswagen offered her a $5,000 credit to lease a new vehicle, the dealership refused to honor the credit and instead charged her a $3,200 early termination fee and she lost her $2,490 deposit when she traded it in.

The complaint includes 30 pages of complaints to the NHTSA about the defect, adding the agency last year launched an investigation into the same defect after receiving more than 150 complaints.

The pair seek to represent a nationwide class of drivers who own or owned 2018-2019 Volkswagen GTI, Golf, Jetta, Passat and Tiguan vehicles equipped with the allegedly defective engines — or a Florida and New York subclass in the alternative — and are seeking unspecified damages.

"We look forward to advancing the litigation on behalf of the many individuals who purchased or leased these class vehicles," Matthew D. Schelkopf of Sauder Schelkopf LLC, representing Dickinson and Conroy, told Law360 on Thursday.

A spokesperson for Volkswagen declined to comment.

Dickinson and Conroy are represented by George F. Farah, Rebecca P. Chang and William H. Anderson of Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC and Matthew D. Schelkopf, Joseph B. Kenney and Lori G. Kier of Sauder Schelkopf LLC.

Counsel information for Volkswagen was not available.

The case is Dickinson et al. v. Volkswagen Group of America Inc. et al. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. The case number was not available.

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