Ex-politician John Edwards among lawyers vying for lead role in Volkswagen suit

Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:35am EST
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By Alison Frankel

(Reuters) - Among the more than 140 plaintiffs' lawyers competing to lead private litigation against Volkswagen over its emissions cheating scandal is former U.S. Senator and Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards.

Edwards, who was a trial lawyer in North Carolina before his political career was felled by a sex scandal, sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco last Friday, asking to be appointed to the powerful plaintiffs' steering committee.

"This case has ingredients I've spent my life working on," Edwards told Reuters in an interview on Monday. The litigation against Volkswagen, he said, requires trial expertise, regulatory know-how and a global perspective.

In his letter, Edwards highlighted his acquaintance with foreign heads of state, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. His work with international leaders, he said, gives him "a deep understanding of the global impact" of cases like Volkswagen's.

A Volkswagen representative did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Plaintiffs lawyers view the Volkswagen case as a potential goldmine. The litigation in San Francisco is a consolidation of hundreds of class actions filed on behalf of more than 500,000 owners and lease-holders of Volkswagen diesel vehicles.

Lawyers for individual car owners have said their clients expect the automaker to repurchase cars allegedly marketed with false claims about toxic emissions and fuel efficiency. They have also said they will seek punitive damages against Volkswagen, which has admitted that it installed software to allow 580,000 vehicles to emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution.

An appointment as lead counsel or as a member of the steering committee means the lawyer's firm will play a key strategic role in the case. Lead lawyers typically have a say in how court-awarded legal fees are divided among plaintiffs firms.   Continued...

Former U.S. Senator John Edwards arrives for the ninth day of jury deliberations at the federal courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina May 31, 2012.   REUTERS/John Adkisson