When Volkswagen of America announced a “Goodwill Program” of gift cards to make TDI owners slightly less pissed off about the emissions scandal, right away many wondered this: if I accept this deal, do I forfeit my right to sue? (Update: No, but it does mean agreeing to arbitration instead.)
The answer, apparently is, no. That’s what was asserted in a Michigan district courtroom today, as part of the ongoing class-action lawsuit filed by owners. According to today’s filing, Volkswagen asserted customers who accept the package—a $500 Visa gift card, a $500 card to use at dealerships, and three years’ free roadside assistance—will not lose the right to sue.
From the filing:
Defendant, and its corporate affiliates, do not now and will not in the future contend, in these or any other consumer 2.0L TDI civil lawsuits against them, that any right, claim or interest of any Plaintiff or putative class member is waived, released, or impaired by participation in, or use of, any feature of the Goodwill Package, nor will participation in the Goodwill Package be used in any manner in opposition to class certification.
[...] Affected customers eligible for the Goodwill Package are not required to waive their rights or release their claims against VWGoA in order to receive the Package.
Which is a fancy legal way of saying you’re good if you want the Diesel Bribe Card™ and still wish to sue later.
Update: But the filing doesn’t note that this agreement does include a binding arbitration clause, much like Fiat Chrysler has been criticized for doing.
Here’s more on that from the LA Times:
VW said the arbitration clause, buried in clause 11 of its lengthy “Goodwill Package Cardholder Agreements” – is part of the bank terms for the gift cards and is not designed to fool consumers into waiving their legal claims against Volkswagen.
But Williams-Derry cautioned that “the clause is worded extremely broadly, and the courts have history unfortunately of interpreting these clauses expansively.”
The agreement dictates that any arbitration must brought in Sioux Falls S.D., a location “that is an extremely inconvenient” for the vast majority of VW diesel car owners, Williams-Derry said.
Our story has been updated since publication to add this information.
Maybe accepting the Goodwill Package isn’t such a great idea after all, unless you’re up for a trip to South Dakota.
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