On Friday, Volkswagen asked a court in Virginia to delay for six months the first of a series of consumer fraud trials after an attorney representing TDI owners apparently drew a parallel between VW-funded monkey experiments and the Holocaust, Reuters reports.
Volkswagen is dealing with a number of consumer fraud trials from TDI owners who didn’t take part in the $14.7 billion class-action settlement. The first one, which concerns a North Carolinian who bought a 2014 VW TDI, is set to take place on Feb. 26 in Virginia. But that could soon change.
That’s because, according to Reuters, Volkswagen of America asked the Fairfax County judge to delay the trial after Michael Melkersen, a lawyer representing “over 300" VW TDI owners, made “inflammatory” comments on a Netflix documentary—comments that VW thinks could prevent a fair trial. Reuters quotes VW’s filing, which references a couple of Melkersen’s comments, saying:
“There is a concern, obviously, amongst Volkswagen that if a jury were to ever hear about any of this stuff that could really impact the verdict in this case.”
Reuters goes on:
Volkswagen lawyers said that “pretrial publicity has connected (the company) directly with Hitler and the Holocaust,” which they said was not relevant to a trial about alleged consumer fraud claims.
One of Melkerson’s statements, which you can watch in the Netflix documentary “Dirty Money,” makes an apparent connection between VW-funded experiments that exposed monkeys to diesel exhaust fumes and Nazi gas chambers, with Melkerson saying in the clip:
Obviously one can not 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, and gave a speech there in connection with that opening.
As Melkerson makes the statement above, the documentary cuts to this image:
Reuters spoke with Melkerson about VW’s request for a cool-off period. He called it “hogwash,” and went on, saying:
“This is another tactic to postpone their day of reckoning.”
There’s no mention in the story when the court will decide whether to grant VW the six month delay, but presumably it will happen soon since the first trial is only three weeks away.
It’s worth noting that VW alleges that its monkey tests had been approved by an independent organization that looks out for the protection of animals. According to the documentary, there were also discussions of running those same diesel exhaust tests on humans—discussions that, when asked about, VW of America’s head of Engineering and Environmental Office said:
“In retrospect, the optics aren’t very good.”