U.S. judge rejects Volkswagen request to delay emissions trial

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A Virginia state court judge on Tuesday turned down a request by the U.S. unit of Volkswagen to delay several of the company’s trials for excess emissions because of “inflammatory” comments made by a lawyer representing vehicle owners that it fears will prejudice the jury.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Bruce White stated after a hearing that he would proceed with a February 26 trial including a North Carolina man who purchased a 2014 diesel Jetta.

Volkswagen said publicity from a Netflix documentary that divulged the company had collectively sponsored tests that exposed monkeys in 2014 to poisonous diesel fumes could prejudice its possibilities of getting a fair trial.

Judge White stated he was satisfied a fair panel could be seated for the anticipated three-week trial. “The jurors have no idea much about these cases,” White stated typically of high-profile cases.

The German automaker is being sued by some consumers after it confessed in September 2015 to cheating on diesel emissions tests, stimulating the biggest company crisis in its history.

Almost all U.S. owners of affected cars accepted to take part in a $25 billion settlement in 2016 in the United States that addressed claims from them, environmental regulators, U.S. states and dealerships. About 2,000 owners, however, pulled out and many are pursuing court claims, looking for additional compensation.

Volkswagen of America had actually asked White to postpone that trial for at least 6 months after an attorney for over 300 U.S. VW diesel owners, Michael Melkersen, gave an interview in the Netflix documentary where he described the company screening diesel fumes on monkeys.

In the Netflix interview, Melkersen criticized the tests, adding: “One can not help to think back throughout history of another series of occasions involving individuals being gassed by a person who was actually at the opening of the very first Volkswagen factory,” an obvious reference to Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.

In its legal filing, the automaker’s lawyers said those comments would prevent a fair trial.

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