VW wants trial delayed, citing lawyer’s ‘inflammatory’ comments
Volkswagen wants a judge to delay a trial for one of its emissions cheating lawsuits after an opposing lawyer appeared in a Netflix documentary and likened the carmaker to Nazis.
In a court document filed Friday, Volkswagen U.S. describes a scene in the newly released Netflix docu-series, “Dirty Money.” In it, lawyer Mike Melkerson discusses the revelation that VW used monkeys to test the effects of diesel fumes.
“One cannot help to think back throughout history of another series of events involving individuals being gassed by a person who was actually at the opening of the very first Volkswagen factory [cut to Adolf Hitler],” Melkerson says in the documentary, according to the court document.
VW has been swamped with legal battles ever since it admitted in 2015 to rigging millions of diesel cars worldwide to cheat on emissions tests. The scandal has cost the company at least $30 billion.
Melkerson is representing David Doar, the owner of a diesel-fueled Jetta who is seeking $725,000 plus attorneys fees from Volkswagen. He accused the company of fraud and violating local trade laws.
Related: Monkeys were used to test diesel fumes, German carmakers say
The trial is set to begin February 26, but VW argues that Melkerson’s comments are “inflammatory” and accused him of going on a “campaign” that could unfairly sway jurors.
VW said in the filing that it can’t get a fair trial “in an atmosphere in which pretrial publicity has connected it directly with Hitler and the Holocaust and other horrors.”
The carmaker is asking for a six-month “cooling-off” period “during which the prejudicial taint may, hopefully, abate,” the filing says.
When reached for comment Sunday, Melkerson called Volkswagen’s attempt to delay “monkey business.”
“Volkswagen up until now has been able to — with its great deal of money and worldwide influence — to shut people up by simply paying them to go away,” Melkerson said. “That’s going to stop.”
Melkerson claims VW has attempted to shield itself from public scrutiny by settling cases before trial or “using their expensive lawyers to file an never-ending slosh of motions to try to put an end” to lawsuits.
He said his client, Doar, is “prepared to take [his case] all the way.”
Melkerson said he recorded the interview that appears in the Netflix documentary last summer, and he didn’t know when the streaming service would release it.