The VW Diesel Emissions Scandal and the Spanish Class Action
Weninger, Robert A.
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So many countries have adopted class action systems in the past few decades that it can be fairly said that group litigation procedures are now being globalized. A persistent question is whether these new class action regimes will be subject to the kinds of criticism that are made of class actions in the United States. Spain's adoption of a class action regime in 2000 intersects with the VW emissions scandal that became public knowledge in September 2015. Hundreds of class actions filed against VW in federal courts in the United States have been consolidated and transferred to an MDL court in California for pretrial proceedings. VW will also need to defend class actions that may be brought against it in courts of other nations, including Spain. The facts comprising the emissions scandal permit discussion of procedural doctrines and issues which are remarkably common to both the Spanish and the American class action systems, such as notice to class members, joining the action, resjudicata, contingency fees, etc. This Article summarizes the results of a "law in action" approach to researching the Spanish class action. The writer examined primary sources of information to learn about the functioning of the regime of group litigation inaugurated in Spain in 2000. He conducted interviews in Madrid of some of the principal actors in the Spanish class action system judges who had presided over class action proceedings, attorneys in major international law firms who represented defendants in those matters, and representatives of consumer associations who bring such actions to protect the rights of consumers. The research included an investigation into whether features of the American class action have been incorporated into the procedures adopted in Spain. It included consideration of whether Spain's system of public enforcement of regulatory laws can or should be supplemented through private enforcement by greater use of the class action.