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Action for damages against the EU

07-12-2018

Most legal systems, both of states and of international organisations, provide for the liability of public administrations for damage done to individuals. This area of the law, known as 'public tort law', varies considerably from country to country, even within the European Union (EU). The EU Treaties have, from the outset, provided for liability of the EU for public torts (wrongs), in the form of action for damages against the EU, now codified in the second and third paragraphs of Article 340 of ...

Most legal systems, both of states and of international organisations, provide for the liability of public administrations for damage done to individuals. This area of the law, known as 'public tort law', varies considerably from country to country, even within the European Union (EU). The EU Treaties have, from the outset, provided for liability of the EU for public torts (wrongs), in the form of action for damages against the EU, now codified in the second and third paragraphs of Article 340 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). However, these rules are notoriously vague and brief, and refer to the 'general principles common to the laws of the Member States' as the source for the rules of EU public tort law. Since the laws of the Member States on public torts differ significantly, the reference has been treated by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as empowerment to develop EU public tort law in its own case law. The rules developed by the CJEU have been criticised by some academics as being very complex, non-transparent and unpredictable. Experts have also pointed out that the threshold of liability is set so high that actions for damages prove successful in very few cases only. According to the data available, from the establishment of the EU until 2014, the Court only actually granted compensation to applicants in 39 cases. As a result, some scholars have even pointed out that the principle of EU liability for public torts is 'illusory' and that action for damages is not an effective means of protecting fundamental rights. Other academics add that the question of establishing the principles of EU public tort law is not merely a technical issue, but a political one, as it touches upon fundamental questions of distributive justice and the form of government in the Union, and therefore should be the subject of democratic debate. This Briefing is one in a series aimed at explaining the activities of the CJEU.

Lawsuits triggered by the Volkswagen emissions case

30-05-2016

In September 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency claimed that Volkswagen had installed illegal software on some of its diesel vehicles, to modify emissions of certain air pollutants. Subsequently, the company has been the subject of legal action brought by consumers, investors, non-governmental organisations and government agencies. In many cases, the plaintiffs have gathered their actions together into collective (or class action) complaints. In the United States, complaints ...

In September 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency claimed that Volkswagen had installed illegal software on some of its diesel vehicles, to modify emissions of certain air pollutants. Subsequently, the company has been the subject of legal action brought by consumers, investors, non-governmental organisations and government agencies. In many cases, the plaintiffs have gathered their actions together into collective (or class action) complaints. In the United States, complaints have been filed by law firms, government departments and even individual states (including the US Justice Department and US Federal Trade Commission, as well as the states of Texas, New Mexico and New Jersey). This briefing provides a non-exhaustive overview of the range of lawsuits under way, many of them still in their initial stages. Several countries around the globe have opened more general investigations on whether car manufacturers respect vehicle emission limits on the road, as opposed to under test conditions. Some other carmakers are suspected also to have used software that manipulates emission levels, similar to that used by Volkswagen. In April 2016, Volkswagen agreed in principle with the US authorities and US class action plaintiffs to buy back, or modify or cancel the leases of affected vehicles. US consumers might also receive substantial compensation. Final details of the settlement are expected in June 2016. No similar agreement has been reached in Europe.

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