Volkswagen seeks to put brakes on claim in Mayo court

Lawyers for German car maker challenge jurisdiction of Castlebar court to hear case against it over emissions scandal

 

Car manufacturing giant Volkswagen has launched a High Court challenge aimed at halting an action against it before Castlebar District Court.

Eithne Higgins, a nurse from Croghan in Boyle Co Roscommon has sued Volkswagen seeking compensation over the German car maker’s admission last year it had cheated on emissions tests.

The admissions resulted in the recall of hundreds of thousands of cars.

Ms Higgins, the owner of a Seat Leon which has a Volkswagen engine, claims Volkswagen’s admissions concerning emissions could have implications for her in respect of Vehicle Registration Tax, road tax and any attempt to trade in her car. The case has come before Judge Mary Devins at Castlebar District Court, and is due back before the judge on Friday.

The car maker’s application came before Mr Justice Anthony Barr during Thursday’s vacation sitting of the High Court, who granted leave to bring the proceedings.

Lawyers for Volkswagen Group Ireland Ltd and Volkswagen AG, who oppose the claim, say Castlebar Court lacks the jurisdiction to hear Ms Higgins’ claim. They argue the action should be heard by the District Court in Dublin.

Arising out of what it says are the procedural flaws and a lack of fair procedures, Volkswagen Ireland has brought High Court judicial review action against Ms Higgins aimed at preventing the case proceeding before the Mayo court.

Moving the application, Paul Gardiner SC for Volkswagen said it is his client’s case that the hearing before Judge Devins was “totally flawed” and should not be allowed continue any further.

The case could not be heard just because Ms Higgins had bought the car second hand from a dealership in Co Mayo, counsel said.

Counsel said that the case should be heard in Dublin along with other similar cases from other parts of the State which have been fixed. This is because defendants in Ms Higgins’ and the other claims are based in Dublin and Wolfsburg in Germany, counsel added.

Counsel said that, despite the fact Volkswagen claim Castlebar District Court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the action, Judge Devins has already determined that issue. She had done so without hearing any evidence or a formal motion, counsel continued.

Seeking the stay on the proceedings, counsel said Ms Higgins would not suffer any prejudice by the bringing of this action as her potential losses had not been determined and she did not plan to exchange her car until next year.

Mr Justice Barr said an arguable case had been made out by Volkswagen. Permission to bring the action was granted on an ex-parte basis, where only one side was represented in court.

The judge said he was also satisfied to place a stay on Ms Higgins’s case from proceeding before Castlebar District Court until the High Court judicial review case has been determined.

The judge made the matter returnable before the High Court to a date in early October when the new legal term begins.

Separately, a date has been set in December for hearing evidence in civil actions being taken by two Galway motorists against Volkswagen.

Aisling O’Dwyer, of Palace Fields, Tuam, and Pamela Cooney, of Cregmore, Galway, are seeking damages not exceeding €15,000, for breach of contract, breach of duty and misrepresentation against Volkswagen Group Ireland Ltd. and Volkswagen AG.

A third claimant, Ann Freeman, from Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo has also joined a large number of Volkswagen drivers, who are now seeking compensation from the company, following its admission last year that it cheated on its emission tests in the US.

The three civil matters came before Galway Civil Court today.

Evan O’Dwyer, solicitor, who represents numerous Volkswagen drivers in Mayo in similar civil actions against Volkswagen, said the matters were only in for mention and a date would have to be set for hearing the cases in full.

Judge Mary Fahy specially fixed December 15th for hearing all three matters.