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Volkswagen diesel civil suits to be heard in California


(Reuters) — A U.S. judicial panel said Tuesday that up to 451 civil lawsuits filed against Volkswagen A.G. over use of software to evade emissions limits will be heard by a federal judge in California.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation said nearly all of the cases will be heard by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in northern California, after VW and the Justice Department had urged that the cases be heard in Detroit.

The VW transfer order applies to 63 VW lawsuits but may be expanded to up to 451 suits filed against the automaker

Justice Breyer, who is the brother of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and a member of the panel that made the decision, did not participate in the deliberations.

The panel said it may decide to transfer a half dozen remaining cases accusing VW of securities fraud to a separate judge — along with a case in Montana that says owners of VW vehicles should not be required to make payments on current loans.

The panel noted that 101 cases were filed in California and that the California Air Resources Board played a key role in uncovering VW’s emissions fraud in 482,000 2.0 liter VW cars.

VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said the German automaker had received the order. “We will vigorously defend the company in these cases,” she said.