VW settles Dieselgate lawsuit before trial

2013 Volkswagen Passat engine (Image courtesy of Volkswagen of America) 

Volkswagen AG last week reached an agreement with more than 300 diesel car owners just days before what was expected to be a high-profile trial over the automaker's excessive diesel emissions.

Reuters reported that Volkswagen reached a settlement Friday with David Doar, a North Carolina man, and roughly 300 other owners who joined his lawsuit. Days before, Virginia state court Judge Bruce White rejected requests from Volkswagen's lawyers to delay the trial. The automaker's lawyers argued that a Netflix documentary about the emissions scandal, reports about the automaker subjecting monkeys to diesel fumes, and "inflammatory" comments from an attorney who represented diesel VW owners would taint a trial jury.

MORE: Volkswagen faces new round of Dieselgate lawsuits in Europe

The trial would have been the first to pit Volkswagen against owners who did not take the automaker up on its $15.4 billion buyback after it admitted in September 2015 to systematically cheating diesel emissions testing in the U.S. Of the roughly 500,000 owners of affected diesel VW vehicles, about 2,000 did not accept the automaker's buyback and additional compensation offers and instead chose to pursue additional compensation in court.

Doar's attorney, Mike Melkerson, was interviewed in the Netflix documentary series "Dirty Money." In the documentary, it was revealed that Volkswagen paid an Albuquerque, New Mexico laboratory to expose monkeys to diesel exhaust fumes in an effort to prove that gasoline emissions are more harmful. However, the VW Beetle used in the lab test was fitted with the same illegal "defeat device" as the cars the automaker was ordered to buy back.

Terms of the settlement have not been made public, but Volkswagen has spent more than $30 billion and ousted high-ranking executives in the Dieselgate scandal so far.

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