Members of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan’s team have been named to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the air pollution lawsuit against Volkswagen for fraudulently manipulating emission controls in its vehicles.
Houston attorney Richard Mithoff was named Lead Counsel for the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee. In the past, Mithoff has served as lead counsel for other multi-district litigation, including representing victims of a bus crash following Hurricane Rita, settling for more than $83 million; and representing Harris County in its suit against tobacco companies, settling for more than $2 billion.
Judge Tim Sulak of Travis County 133rd District Court also named to the Steering Committee: Earnest Wotring of Baker Wotring LLP and Benny Agosto of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend. Mithoff, Wotring and Agosto were hired under contract by County Attorney Ryan to represent Harris County due to their expertise in complex litigation and environmental issues.
Judge Sulak was named last month by the Texas Supreme Court to be in charge of multi-district litigation for the scores of government and consumer suits filed against Volkswagen connected to the admitted falsification of contaminate emission data from VW's diesel cars.
“I am pleased that Judge Sulak put members of our legal team in leadership positions,” said Harris County Attorney Ryan. “This puts Harris County in the driver’s seat for this litigation.”
Ryan filed suit against Volkswagen Group of America on September 29, 2015, seeking substantial civil penalties for the estimated 6,000 diesel Volkswagens sold in the county. Volkswagen has admitted equipping many of its diesel vehicles with software that could detect when emissions tests were being performed. The software would then provide false results that indicated the vehicle was in compliance with emission standards when, instead, the vehicles were emitting nitrogen oxide at an estimated 10 to 40 times government compliance standards.
Last month, Ryan obtained a court order allowing him to serve the county’s lawsuit against Volkswagen on its parent companies in Germany.
"The heart and mind of the conspiracy to pollute the air and lie about it came from the VW parent corporations in Germany," Harris County Attorney Ryan said. "They must be held accountable in a Texas court."