In the Daimler diesel vehicle compensation dispute, courts must carefully consider the claims made by plaintiffs for shutdown devices in exhaust gas cleaning. That was the verdict of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe on Tuesday, overturning a decision by the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, which had rejected a claim for damages from a car owner. The case has yet to be clarified by the court. At the same time, the BGH confirmed its case law that temperature-dependent exhaust gas cleaning – the thermal window – does not in itself constitute immoral damage and therefore does not justify a claim for damages from the buyer’s part. On the contrary, other circumstances should arise which suggest a deception.
Daimler welcomed the fact that, as in January, the Federal Court of Justice saw no claims for damages simply because of the presence of the thermal window. “Daimler assumes the OLG will continue to dismiss the lawsuit even after it has been referred again.”
If the plaintiffs have put forward indications that Daimler had installed an additional cut-off device so that the exhaust gas values are respected on the test bench, it must be investigated, explained the BGH.
Complainant thinks thermal window is there for deception
In this specific case, a customer bought a Mercedes-Benz C 220 CDI BlueEfficiency in 2012 for around 35,000 euros. He is claiming reimbursement of the purchase price less compensation for use against the return of the car. The vehicle is equipped with an OM 651 series diesel engine. There has been no recall from the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) due to an illegal neutralization device. A Euro 5 emission class approval has been granted for the vehicle type. The complainant claims that by installing the thermal window and various other cut-off devices, Daimler influenced compliance with the legal limit values on the test bench. He was referring to newspaper articles.
The courts below had dismissed his complaint and had not followed up on his arguments as they were general accusations without sufficient foundation. This has now been challenged by the BGH in the review. The thermal window does not represent any immoral damage, but the claim that an additional shutdown device was installed for the test bench should have been followed by the court. The applicant relied on newspaper articles. “A foreigner cannot ask for more lectures and technical details,” Presiding Judge Stefan Seiters said in the verdict (AZ: VI ZR 128/20).
In addition to the waves of lawsuits against Daimler over Mercedes diesel cars, there was also an example of a declaratory action by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations. According to Daimler, 95 percent of lawsuits in higher regional and regional courts have so far been decided in the company’s favor.