The Volkswagen scandal rocked the headlines in 2015, as it was discovered that the world’s largest automaker had installed “defeat device” software designed to cheat U.S. emissions tests. Volkswagen now faces more than 60 lawsuits in Texas alone, and the Texas Supreme Court has issued an opinion which should help these cases proceed more efficiently.
Many Lawsuits Will Be “Grouped”
Volkswagen requested that the Texas Supreme Court create a Multidistrict Litigation Panel, or MDL, to handle the large number of lawsuits they are currently facing. Essentially, this MDL will help eliminate much of the duplicate or overlapping discovery, thus reducing the burden on plaintiffs, the defendant, as well as the courts themselves. This follows a similar action taken at the federal level, in which more than 450 lawsuits were consolidated into an MDL in a California federal court.
What is Discovery?
Discovery is a critical component of any lawsuit, and is essentially the process through which both parties share information with one another. Due to the complexity of the case, including the technology and Volkswagen’s cover-up, discovery will likely be an expensive and time-consuming process for both sides.
By transferring these cases to just one pretrial judge, much of the discovery process can be completed just one time, instead of individually for each case. While certain lawsuits may have unique features which require additional discovery, the Supreme Court determined that “transferring them to one MDL pretrial court would serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the efficient resolution of the claims.”
Not All Lawsuits Will Be Handled By MDL Court
Although the bulk of the lawsuits will be transferred to the MDL pretrial court, the MDL court may choose to either consolidate or separate any motions brought forth by governmental entities. They have also created a separate MDL panel to handle the enforcement cases brought forth under the Texas Clear Air Act.