Two law firms are in the High Court this week, battling it out to be named the lead solicitors in the group action being taken over the Volkswagen emissions scandal, Litigation Futures can reveal.
The face-off comes ahead of a hearing next month on whether to grant a group litigation order (GLO) in the case.
London firm Harcus Sinclair brought the claim against Chesterfield-based Your Lawyers, and the pair were scheduled to be facing off in a private hearing before a deputy High Court judge for the last of three days today.
Neither firm commented on the dispute when contacted by Litigation Futures, but we have seen an order emanating from another private hearing held last month, in which Mr E Johnson QC, himself a deputy High Court judge, ordered an expedited trial.
While the firms may have hoped that their disagreement would have stayed between them, the judge said his order should be copied to all the other firms of solicitors representing both the claimants and defendants in the case.
A hearing in January first considered Harcus’s application whether to grant a GLO. The dedicated Your Lawyers website for VW claims records that at the hearing, “[we] informed the court that we were very well placed to take on the role of lead solicitors, and to take a leading role in the conduct of this litigation.
“We expected a little encounter with Harcus Sinclair, the firm that made the application and another couple of law firms but on the day of the hearing, there was a consensus that the application should not proceed. The High Court agreed and the application was adjourned until October 2017.”
Harcus Sinclair has enjoyed a high profile over its pursuit of the case, working with national giant Slater & Gordon to represent tens of thousands of car owners in the group. Some 1.2m cars built by VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda – all part of the VW Group – are affected.
We reported at the start of the year that Harcus Sinclair was operating under a damages-based agreement  and has secured third-party funding from Therium Capital Management.
The key allegation is that the affected cars should not have been certified as fit for sale because they produced higher levels of harmful emissions than the rules allowed. It is also alleged that the affected vehicles only passed official emissions tests because their engines were fitted with a ‘defeat device’ which reduces the emissions under test conditions.
Harcus Sinclair said it would make a claim for exemplary damages if it could show that VW deliberately fitted the defeat device to increase its profits.
Your Lawyers specialises in consumer action claims and group litigation, and says on its website that it too has thousands of clients under ‘no win, no fee’ agreements.