[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against Volkswagen [corporate website] for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. The complaint was filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] alleging that approximately 600,000 vehicles contained illegal "defeat devices," which Volkswagen failed to disclose. "Defeat devices,"according to reports, were able to recognize when a vehicle was being tested and reduced emissions during the test, but the vehicles were actually emitting up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide than allowed under US law. The complaint seeks injunctive relief as well as civil penalties [Reuters report] totaling over $18 billion.
The filing of this complaint is the latest development in the Volkswagen scandal [JURIST comment]. Last year the Braunschweig public prosecutor's office opened a criminal investigation [JURIST report] of former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, following accusations that the company cheated on government emissions tests by manipulating exhaust valves. The investigation followed several criminal complaints, including one filed by Volkswagen, and came less than a week after Winterkorn stepped down as CEO of the company. In his statement he accepted "responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines" and said that he was "clearing the way for this fresh start with [his] resignation."