By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Volkswagen AG’s bid to avoid lawsuits filed by officials in three states seeking damages stemming from the German automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal.
The justices refused to hear appeals by VW and German auto supplier Robert Bosch LLC of a lower court ruling allowing Florida’s Hillsborough County and Utah’s Salt Lake County to seek to hold the companies liable under local laws and regulations barring tampering with vehicle emissions controls. The court also rejected VW’s appeal of a similar ruling in a case brought by the state of Ohio.
Volkswagen subsidiary Volkswagen Group of America Inc has argued that under the Clean Air Act, the landmark U.S. environmental law, only the federal government can pursue such claims. VW noted that it already has reached a settlement of more than $20 billion with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The lawsuits accused VW of deceiving the EPA – and in doing so also violating the local laws.
President Joe Biden’s administration, asked by the court to weigh in on the dispute, urged the justices not to hear the case, saying the Clean Air Act allows for enforcement of state laws.
In one case, Volkswagen was seeking to overturn a 2020 ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit decided that the Clean Air Act did not preempt local efforts to impose liability over vehicles that VW had tampered with after they were sold. The 9th Circuit, however, agreed with VW that it could not be held liable under the local anti-tampering laws for actions it took pre-sale.
The 9th Circuit said its decision could lead to "staggering liability for Volkswagen."
Volkswagen was also seeking to overturn a June ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that reached a similar conclusion.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)
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