John Edwards vying to represent VW owners in emissions case

Story highlights

  • "My unique qualifications can help in reaching a fair, efficient and meaningful result for the plaintiffs," Edwards wrote in a letter to a judge
  • Regulators say the automaker rigged engine emissions tests in America and Europe to make them appear cleaner than they were

(CNN)Former U.S. senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards has put himself in the running for a chance to represent victims of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

In a letter submitted to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco last Friday, Edwards, a trial lawyer, said he is applying to become a member of the plaintiffs' steering committee.
"My unique qualifications can help in reaching a fair, efficient and meaningful result for the plaintiffs," Edwards wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CNN. "I also have experience working with foreign governments, which will be necessary to achieve swift, just resolution of this internationally significant case."
    News of Edwards' application was first reported by Reuters.
    Regulators say the automaker rigged engine emissions tests in America and Europe to make them appear cleaner than they were.
    Edwards says he and his firm, Raleigh, North Carolina-based Edwards Kirby, were the first to file a class action suit in North Carolina against VW on behalf of owners with affected vehicles. He currently represents over 100 plaintiffs nationwide.
    Reuters reports Edwards is among the more than 140 plaintiffs' lawyers competing to lead private litigation against VW, a group that includes former presidential candidate Al Gore.
    With so many claims, the case could be profitable for attorneys.
    Meanwhile, there have been more than 500 civil lawsuits filed against Volkswagen over the use of software to avoid emissions limits.
    The lawsuit filed in San Francisco merges hundreds of suits filed on owners' behalf.
    "The integrity and safety of cars and every product sold is at stake in this litigation," Edwards said in a press release earlier this month.
    Volkswagen has already admitted its cars had illegal software installed to trick emissions tests into thinking they complied with regulations, when in fact they would dump up to 40 times the allowed level of pollutants into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency says the automaker still has not submitted an adequate recall plan to bring the vehicles into compliance and reduce pollution.
    The federal government says there are about 500,000 diesel VW and Audi cars on the road that violate the environmental rules.
    Edwards worked as a plaintiff's trial attorney for decades. He returned to private practice in November 2013 after a failed run for the White House as John Kerry's vice presidential running mate in 2004.