VW Can Pay $9.2M to Settle Sunroof Claims

     (CN) – Drivers of Volkswagens and Audis will get $9.2 million as a settlement to their claims over defective pollen filter gasket areas and sunroof drains, a federal judge ruled.
     John Dewey and Jacqueline Delguercio each led federal class actions against Volkswagen of America in 2007 over alleged defects in certain Volkswagen and Audi vehicles.
     After their claims were consolidated in the District of New Jersey, the parties reached a tentative settlement covering a class of more than 1 million.
     Five objected to the deal, however, and the 3rd Circuit called for further proceedings to adequately represent all class members.
     The parties reached a new settlement this summer by adding a “residual group” of VW lessees to the class.
     After the trial court granted preliminary approval on Aug. 8, the plaintiffs moved for certification of the settlement class and approval of the new agreement, plus attorneys’ fees, costs and awards to the class representatives.
     The objectors also moved for attorneys’ fees, costs and an incentive award.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz granted the motions on Dec. 14.
     “By eliminating the distinction between the ‘reimbursement group’ and the ‘residual group’ and treating each class member similarly by allowing each to seek reimbursement for repairs, the new settlement agreement resolves the adequacy problem the third circuit identified,” the 44-page ruling states. “The named plaintiffs are now in the same position as all other class members because each of them owned or leased the subject vehicles that contained the allegedly defective plenum or sunroof drain system, received allegedly inadequate maintenance recommendations and, as a result, suffered the same injury.”
     Objectors cannot sustain claims that the new settlement does not compensate vehicle owners who have not yet had repairs performed.
     “To the extent the objector objects because he believes compensation should be provided even where the class member expended no money to repair damage, the objection does not require rejecting the settlement,” Shwartz wrote. “Allowing compensation for those who actually incur an expense is a reasonable remedy, but permitting those who expended no funds to obtain money would be tantamount to an impermissible windfall.”
     Class members receive the required benefits under the deal, according to the ruling.
     “Under the settlement’s terms, all class members receive educational preventative maintenance materials, including mailings that recommend inspections and cleaning of the sunroof and plenum drain systems,” she wrote. “All class members are eligible to receive full reimbursement from a non-exhaustible $8 million fund for expenses incurred for ‘[r]eimbursable [r]epairs for cleaning, drying, or replacement of carpeting, including padding, and/or repair or replacement’ of affected vehicle components.”
     The court awarded more than $9.8 million in attorneys’ fees and costs, $10,000 each to nine class representatives, $86,000 to the Center for Class Action Fairness, $25,000 to objector Gary Sibley, and $500 each to three other objectors.

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