A successful $1 billion lawsuit in the US against German car giant Mercedes-Benz last year has prompted an Australian law firm to launch a class action against the company seeking ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ for allegedly misleading owners about emissions from certain diesel models.
Compensation law firm Gerard Malouf and Partners (GMP Law) says it has filed a class action against Mercedes-Benz in the Victorian Supreme Court after enlisting assistance from the legal eagles who took Mercedes-Benz to court in the US.
The claim alleges that between 2008 and 2018, Mercedes installed ‘cheat devices’ to manipulate the reading of diesel gas emissions in order to pass regulatory testing.
The law firm estimates the class action could involve ‘tens of thousands’ of Mercedes vehicles sold in Australia during the period.
To bolster its chances of success, GMP Law says it has established an information sharing arrangement with Seattle-based consumer rights law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro to assist with its claim.
Hagens Berman achieved a US$700 million ($1 billion) settlement two years ago from Mercedes in the US after filing a similar lawsuit against the company in 2016.
Hagens Berman was also the law firm behind the US$14.7 billion ($22.2 billion) settlement achieved from Volkswagen in relation to the company’s emissions-cheating scandal of 2015 widely known as 'dieselgate'.
“This information sharing arrangement between HB and GMP Law is a great step forward towards achieving just compensation for those consumers in Australia which have been affected by Mercedes’ ‘cheat devices’,” says GMP Law chairman Gerard Malouf.
“Based upon the findings from the numerous international court proceedings as well as government investigations, we strongly believe Mercedes has been a serious case to answer.
“We intend to stand up for the rights of all consumers to protect their health, financial interests and the environment.”
Malouf says his law firm will fund the class action entirely on behalf of Mercedes owners without the aid of a class action financier typically used in these matters.
“(We) will seek a group cost order without a legal funder to ensure class members receive the absolute maximum in damages from any award or settlement,” he says.
The class action is seeking damages for the loss of value of affected vehicles as well as punitive damages.
The GMP Law website claims that owners and lessees of affected vehicles ‘appear to have been misled about the performance of their vehicles’.
It also alleges Mercedes has contributed ‘irreversible environmental damage’ by misrepresenting the emissions of nitrogen oxide from its diesel engines.
“Nitrogen oxide is toxic and harmful and has been associated with, amongst other things climate change, acid rain, and respiratory conditions, such as childhood asthma,” says the firm.
Business News Australia has sought comment from Mercedes-Benz.
Vehicle manufacturers have been firmly in the sights of legal eagles recently with GMP Law filing a similar class action against Hino Motor Sales Australia and Hino Motors Limited in September. Hino is potentially facing a separate class action led by Bannister Law in relation to alleged breaches of the Road Vehicle Standards Act.
In the wake of the US class action against Volkswagen, Maurice Blackburn and Bannister Law launched a similar claim against Volkswagen in 2015 and last year won a $120 million settlement on behalf of Australian motorists in relation to a similar diesel emissions issue.
The class action came on top of a $125 million fine issued by the Federal Court in 2019 following action taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
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