HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock's chief of staff, her husband and a third person suing Volkswagen asked a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss their lawsuit rather than see it combined with hundreds of other claims against the carmaker over its emissions-rigging software.
Tracy Stone-Manning's attorney, Tim Bechtold, says he plans to make some changes to the lawsuit and re-file it in state court on Monday. Stone-Manning, her husband Richard Manning and Missoula resident Kristine Akland prefer to pursue their claims individually in a Montana court than be part of a class-action lawsuit, Bechtold said.
"They want to get their money back, start over and get a different car that doesn't pollute," Bechtold said.
Volkswagen has admitted using a piece of engine software to cheat on diesel car emissions tests.
Volkswagen attorney Stephen Bell did not immediately return a call or email for comment. He said in a recent court filing that the case belongs in federal court and the plaintiffs qualify as class members of an existing lawsuit.
More than 400 federal lawsuits have been filed against Volkswagen in more than 30 courts across the nation, Bell said in the filing. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in New Orleans on whether to consolidate those lawsuits.
Stone-Manning's lawsuit accuses Volkswagen of fraud by concealment and of violating the state's Consumer Protection Act.
The three plaintiffs are seeking their money back for the cars they purchased, plus punitive damages and attorney's fees. Volkswagen attorneys pointed out that those demands would put them over the $75,000 threshold that gives the federal court jurisdiction.
Bechtold sought to move the original lawsuit from federal court to state court. In a hearing Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said he could not tell if the plaintiffs were asking for less than $75,000 and indicated that he would put the case on hold if he did not send it to state court, Bechtold said.
The attorney decided to withdraw it the case and re-file it next week after clarifying the amount in damages sought, Bechtold said.