In mid-September, Volkswagen publicly admitted that it had cheated during
the emissions tests on as many as eleven million of its “clean diesel”
engines. It has since come to light that the vehicles were equipped with
computer software that could detect when an emissions test was taking
place based on engine operation, air pressure, monitoring speed, and the
position of the steering wheel. The software then triggered a device that
reduced emissions to a legal level for the duration of the test. If you
or someone you know purchased a Volkswagen within the last six years,
you may be eligible to receive compensation through a
class action lawsuit.
The eleven million diesel cars sold by Volkswagen and equipped with the
software in question produced 40 times the legal level of nitrogen oxide
permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”).
Nitrogen oxide is a pollutant whose emission can exacerbate respiratory
issues like asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis.
Under the Clean Air Act, Volkswagen may be fined up to $37,500 for each
of the estimated 482,000 vehicles that were sold in the United States.
This could mean a possible total maximum fine of $18 billion for the company.
Furthermore, these estimates only account for the Volkswagen-manufactured
Audi A3, Jetta, Beetle, Golf, and Passat. The number of affected vehicles produced by Volkswagen could be even
higher, which would further increase potential fines faced by the corporation.
Investigations and Class Action Lawsuits in Maryland
Soon after the EPA released its findings, Volkswagen’s CEO Martin
Winterkorn offered his official resignation. A replacement has yet to
be chosen. Volkswagen’s American head of operations has also been
asked for an explanation and has been called to testify before lawmakers
within the week to help set the record straight on how much management
actually knew about the fraud.
German authorities have also responded to the scandal by setting up a meeting
to discuss potential “re-fit” plans on October 7th. The plan could include anything from a general recall to the installation
of an entirely new computer program within each vehicle. Depending on
the re-fit plan chosen by Volkswagen management, alterations could result
in the diminishment of the car’s fuel economy and even performance.
This, in turn, would undoubtedly lead to another wave of lawsuits against
Maryland’s Attorney General has opened a multi-state investigation
into the company, and at least 29 other states have followed suit. All
are issuing subpoenas for company records.
In the first of the lawsuits, filed in California, the plaintiff alleges
that Volkswagen defrauded consumers with false representations concerning
emissions and mileage. Since that time, at least
25 class action lawsuits have been filed in all 50 states and more are sure to follow.
Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You
If you believe that you fall within the class of eligible plaintiffs who
purchased cars from Volkswagen under false pretenses, an attorney can
help you formulate your claim and protect your rights. Please contact the
Law Office of Robert R. Castro to schedule a free consultation.
Public Officials and Liability for Gross Negligence
In a recent case in the Maryland Court of Appeals, a correctional officer
was held civilly liable for his negligence in failing to prevent the death
of an inmate after he stood by while one inmate murdered the other. Generally,
public officials cannot be held liable for negligence because of the doctrine
of sovereign immunity, but if a public official is
grossly negligent, the doctrine will not apply and the official can be held liable.
Cooper v. Rodriguez
In 2005, two inmates,
Kevin G. Johns, Jr. and Phillip E. Parker, Jr., were being transported between correctional facilities when Johns reached
over the seat in front of him and began choking Parker with his arm. After
Parker began to struggle, Johns cut his neck with a razor blade. Parker
yelled loudly and was further choked by Johns, and eventually stuffed
between two seats.
The entire encounter took place roughly seven feet from where correctional
officer, Larry Cooper was seated on an elevated platform, although he
denied having witnessed the event. Upon arrival at the Baltimore facility,
security guards discovered Parker’s body and transported him to
a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The court found that Cooper’s failure to follow basic procedure,
his proximity to the inmates at the time of the murder, and his reckless
disregard for the safety of his charges constituted gross negligence and
caused Parker’s death. Furthermore, the court clarified that under
the Maryland Tort Claims Act, Maryland state employees who would normally
be granted immunity cannot claim such benefits if they were
The doctrine of sovereign immunity means that
state personnel are immune from liability for a tortious act or omission that falls within the scope of his or her
public duties. Unless a plaintiff can show that the official was grossly
negligent, the plaintiff will be barred from recovery.
A public official or
state personnel means:
●A state employee or official who is paid in whole or in part by the Central
Payroll Bureau in the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury;
- A sheriff or deputy sheriff of a county or Baltimore City;
- An employee of a county who is assigned to a local department of social
- Montgomery County as unit of state government.
This list is not exhaustive and also includes many other categories of
gross negligence is defined as the intentional failure to perform a duty in reckless disregard
of the consequences to the life or property of another.
Sovereign immunity does not apply in cases of gross negligence because
the doctrine is meant to protect state employees who are acting
within the scope of their employment. By acting maliciously or recklessly, government
employees forfeit any protection that their position previously afforded
them. This means that victims of a public official’s gross negligence
have the opportunity to be compensated for their injury.
Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You
If you have been injured because of the gross negligence of a public official,
please contact a Maryland personal injury attorney at the
Law Office of Robert R. Castro to schedule an initial consultation.