Case Initial Text 1

July 29, 2021
Study Reveals Human Cost of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The mortality cost of carbon (PDF), a study published by Nature Communications, projects the number of lives that will be lost due to earth’s rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The study introduces a new metric, the mortality cost of carbon (MCC), that estimates the “expected temperature-related excess deaths globally from 2020 to 2100 caused by the emission of one additional metric ton of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions in 2020.” In its central scenario, the study finds that there are 83 million projected excess deaths between 2020 and 2100 and reports that by the end of this century, “the projected 4.6 million excess yearly deaths would put climate change 6th on the 2017 Global Burden of Disease risk factor risk list ahead of outdoor air pollution (3.4 million yearly excess deaths) and just below obesity (4.7 million yearly excess deaths).” Dirty Diesel emissions and the use of defeat devices by automakers contribute to environmental harm, and these damages are part of the reason we are litigating these cases.

STITCHTING EMISSION CLAIM’S INVESTIGATION OF STELLANTIS’ PEUGEOT, CITROËN AND OPEL DIESEL VEHICLES

According to an investigation conducted by the Emission Claim Foundation, from 2009-2019 several brands of diesel vehicles that are now part of the new Dutch conglomerate Stellantis N.V. were programmed to adequately reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions only when the vehicles were operated on a roller-board under government-mandated test conditions.  The affected vehicles—Peugeot, Citroën and Opel diesels—were all part of Groupe PSA when Group PSA merged into Stellantis, and the Opel diesels were manufactured by General Motors from 2009 until 2017 when Groupe PSA bought the Opel brand.  In real world driving conditions, with the emissions control systems shut down or off, the affected vehicles produce illegally and unconscionably high levels of NOx.  The companies’ conduct has decreased the value of the Peugeot, Citroën and Opel diesel vehicles, and the high NOx emissions have created environmental pollution and deleteriously affected human health across the EU.

According to independent testing conducted on the affected Peugeot, Citroën and Opel diesel vehicles, the cars’ emission control systems are fully functional only in very limited circumstances in order to pass the emissions test required under the EU-wide emissions standards.  Like Volkswagen, Mercedes and other diesel car makers, Groupe PSA and General Motors used illegal “defeat devices” to shut down emissions control technology outside of the governmental test environment in order to save money and maximize the cars’ performance in real-world driving.  The affected diesels were therefore only able to comply with the EU-wide NOx emissions limit by cheating on the emissions tests mandated by the EU emissions standards.

Indeed, independent testing of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel diesels in ordinary driving conditions in normal ambient air temperatures demonstrates a systemic failure to meet emissions standards.  Groupe PSA and General Motors admittedly programmed the exhaust gas recirculation system (“EGR”), a major emissions control system, to shut down in Opel diesels when the outside temperature was 17 degrees Celsius or lower, and Peugeot and  Citroën also turned down their EGR at lower temperatures, in each case causing massive amounts of NOx to poison the environment.  As a result of this and other defeat devices employed by Group PSA and General Motors, Opel diesels spewed up to 18 times the legally permitted NOx, making Opel vehicles among the very worst offenders in the still-unfolding Dieselgate scandal.  Similar illegal conduct by Group PSA caused Peugeot and Citroën vehicles to emit up to nearly 10 times the lawful amount of NOx.

Like Volkswagen and Mercedes, Groupe PSA and General Motors did not act alone.  The defeat devices in all the affected vehicles were enabled by their Electronic Diesel Control, the EDC 17 provided by Robert Bosch GmbH.  Without Bosch’s active participation in developing, programming and calibrating the EDC 17, Groupe PSA and General Motors could not have perpetrated the large-scale diesel fraud across the EU.

THE CASE IN THE NETHERLANDS

The law firm Hagens Berman is now assisting the Emission Claim Foundation by bringing its expertise to a lawsuit started by the Amsterdam law firm Kennedy Van der Laan in the Netherlands on behalf of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel owners and lessees across Europe, taking advantage of new laws in the Netherlands making it easier for European consumers to bring these claims.  The lawsuit also names Bosch as a defendant in light of the key role played by Bosch and its EDC 17 in inflicting this massive diesel fraud on European consumers and the environment.

The fight to seek justice on behalf of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel owners and lessees was strengthened in December 2020 when the EU Court of Justice concluded that “a manufacturer cannot install a defeat device which systematically improves, during approval procedures, the performance of the vehicle emission control system and thus obtain approval of the vehicle.” While the case did not concern Peugeot, Citroën and Opel cars, the 2020 Court of Justice opinion rejected the argument proffered by General Motors, Groupe PSA and other diesel makers that shutting down emissions control systems was proper to prevent wear and tear on the engine. 

Then, on June 9, 2021, Stellantis revealed that French investigators have charged Peugeot with consumer fraud in connection with its diesel vehicles, and required Stellantis subsidiary Automobiles Peugeot S.A. to make a 10 million-euro bail payment and provide a 30 million-euro bank guarantee.  Stellantis Automobiles Citroën S.A. was summoned to appear before the Judicial Court of Paris as part of the same investigation, and was ordered to pay 8 million euros in bail and provide 25 million euros in bank guarantees. 

The French charges come after a six-year investigation of Groupe PSA and other diesel carmakers in response to the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal.  In October of 2015, the French government convened an independent commission (the “Royal Commission”).  The Royal Commission’s reports, published in 2016, showed that Peugeot, Citroën and Opel diesels all emitted NOx levels well in excess of the legal maximum. Given a chance to explain the poor results of its Peugeot and Citroën diesel vehicles, Groupe PSA admitted that it had “implemented engine protection methods that can limit the EGR rate as of the temperature.”  Opel also admitted to “[t]he reduction of EGR at low ambient temperature” and claimed this was “justified by the risks” associated with the use of the EGR system at lower temperatures.  (The French consumer fraud agency closed its investigation into Opel in March of 2017).

The Emissions Claim Foundation is filing this litigation to allow drivers of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel across Europe to obtain compensation for the damages they have suffered as a result of the deceptive conduct committed by Groupe PSA, General Motors, and their partner, Bosch. The affected vehicles all emit far more pollutants than a “clean” diesel would, and far more than a reasonable consumer would expect.

WHAT DID GROUPE PSA AND GENERAL MOTORS DO WRONG?

Diesel technologies were sold by the manufacturers of Peugeot, Citroën and Opel cars on the basis that they would work to boost performance, provide better fuel economy and produce lower emissions.

  • The components of this technology include: High-pressure fuel injection to provide optimal pressure and operation.
  • Exhaust gas recirculation to reduce harmful emissions in the “pre-treatment” phase.
  • A “post-treatment system”—either selective catalytic reduction (“SCR”), or a lean NOx trap (“LNT”). Both the LNT and the SCR systems are designed to convert nitrogen oxide emissions into two separate and harmless elements, nitrogen and oxygen.

Peugeot, Citroën and Opel diesels all offered this technology, and the carmakers told car buyers that they could take advantage of the performance of a diesel engine without harming the environment.

Peugeot, Citroën and Opel used this technology throughout their range of diesel vehicles, allegedly so there would be no compromise to the consumer. The technology was sold to the public as ‘clean’ diesel technology.  Groupe PSA claimed that its so-called “Blue HDi technology” used  in Peugeot and Citroën diesels “reduces the nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions of diesel engines to levels comparable with those of petrol engines while safeguarding the intrinsic advantages of diesel engines in terms of driving pleasure, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.”  Similarly, in touting its so-called “BlueInjection technology,” Opel proclaimed it was “good for the environment” and advised consumers that “When you drive a vehicle with BlueInjection technology, you reduce toxic nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions,” making the vehicles “significantly cleaner on the road.” However, the evidence suggests that wasn’t the case; Peugeot, Citroën and Opel diesel vehicles were in fact fitted with defeat devices, and the vehicles were incredibly harmful to the environment.

WHAT IS NITROGEN OXIDE (NOX)? 

Nitrogen Oxide is a group of highly reactive gases made up of nitrogen and oxygen, which is formed when nitrogen comes into contact or has a reaction with oxygen producing NOx.

NOx has direct impacts on human health, mainly affecting respiratory conditions causing inflammation of the airways. Long term exposure in high volumes can decrease lung function, increase the risk of respiratory conditions, and increase the response to allergens. People who suffer from common illnesses such as Asthma and Bronchitis will have increased sensitivity to the pollutant.

It also affects the environment as the gas is toxic and corrosive, making it one of the causes of acid rain.

Case Timeline
Title
Current state of affairs:
Description

The case will be on the docket again on 26 January 2022 for further consideration.

Title
Docket Decision
Description

The period within which a similar collective claim may be instituted pursuant to Section 1018d(1) of the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure has been extended by three months.

Date
Title
Defences on the part of the defendant
Description

Up to date, none of the defendants replied to the notice of liability dated 4 June 2021. The Emission Claim Foundation is not aware of any other defences of the defendants.

Title
Writ of summons
Description

With this writ of summons, the Foundation claims collective damages for the losses suffered by the victims of the diesel fraud committed by Renault and Bosch in the Netherlands and some declaratory judgements with regard to the diesel fraud. 

Date
Title
Letter before claim
Description

In short, the Emission Claim Foundation demands that Stellantis, the Dutch importers of Stellantis, Bosch and General Motors (i) accept liability for all of the damages that the victims of the diesel fraud have suffered (and will suffer) as a result of their unlawful behavior and (ii) agrees to enter into negotiations with the Emission Claim Foundation to settle the Claims.

Date
Title
Establishment of the Emission Claim Foundation
Date

CASE TIMELINE

Docket Decision

The period within which a similar collective claim may be instituted pursuant to Section 1018d(1) of the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure has been extended by three months.

Writ of summons

With this writ of summons, the Foundation claims collective damages for the losses suffered by the victims of the diesel fraud committed by Renault and Bosch in the Netherlands and some declaratory judgements with regard to the diesel fraud. 

Letter before claim

In short, the Emission Claim Foundation demands that Stellantis, the Dutch importers of Stellantis, Bosch and General Motors (i) accept liability for all of the damages that the victims of the diesel fraud have suffered (and will suffer) as a result of their unlawful behavior and (ii) agrees to enter into negotiations with the Emission Claim Foundation to settle the Claims.

Establishment of the Emission Claim Foundation

If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected].