Fiat Ducato diesel scandal - BGH ruling of 26.06.2023 increases chances of compensation for damages

On March 21, 2023, the ECJ issued a ruling in relation to the diesel scandal. Since then, the follow-up ruling by the German Federal Court of Justice has been eagerly awaited by stakeholders on both sides. The affected consumers in particular were hoping for a further strengthening of their position.

On Monday, June 26, 2023, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) finally issued the expected decisions in the proceedings VIa ZR 335/21, VIa ZR 533/21 and VIa ZR 1031/22 on the claim for damages by buyers against the manufacturer in the so-called "diesel emissions scandal".

What conclusions can be drawn from the decisions? Affected parties in whose mobile homes an impermissible defeat device has been installed are also entitled to compensation in principle.

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Diesel buyers receive up to 15% of the purchase price

In its decision, the BGH states that buyers affected by the diesel scandal are entitled to financial compensation in the form of so-called small damages (so-called reliance damages).

As expected, the BGH did not make a general statement on the amount of damages. This is not possible, as each case differs in the details. The specific amount of damages must always be determined by the courts in each individual case. However, the BGH mentioned an amount of up to 15% of the purchase price. If necessary, an equalization of benefits must also be taken into account. This means that the benefits derived from the vehicle must be deducted from the amount of the claim for damages.

Conditions for compensation

The Federal Court of Justice also once again set out in concrete terms the requirements to be met by the parties involved in the emissions scandal litigation. In order to obtain damages, the plaintiffs (the consumer) must first demonstrate and prove that an impermissible defeat device was installed in their vehicle. In contrast, the defendants (the manufacturer) bear the burden of proving that the defeat device is permissible by way of exception. According to the relevant European regulations, defeat devices are generally not permitted. Manufacturers must therefore prove that in their case the installed defeat device is permissible by way of exception.

If the court concludes that an impermissible defeat device has been installed in the vehicle concerned, the vehicle manufacturer must prove that it is not at fault.

The vehicle manufacturers involved in the diesel scandal must therefore be able to prove that they acted neither intentionally nor negligently with regard to the installation of the impermissible defeat device.

If they are unable to do so, the purchaser shall be entitled to claim damages in accordance with Section 823 (2) of the German Civil Code (BGB) in conjunction with Section 6 (1), Section 27 (1) of the EC General Terms and Conditions of Sale and Delivery (EG-FGV).

The press release of the Federal Court of Justice can be found here.  

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