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German court ruling clears the way to settle VW diesel cases

FRANKFURT – A German court has ruled that Volkswagen must buy back cars from owners of its diesel cars equipped with software that evaded emissions testing — but consumers must accept the current value of the car based on the mileage they drove since buying it, not the purchase price.

Volkswagen said the decision announced Monday would clear the way for settlement of remaining consumer claims in Germany. The decision affects some 60,000 individual claims brought by car owners there; around 262,000 others have already been covered by an 830 million-euro ($904 million) class-action settlement.

“For the majority of the 60,000 pending cases, this ruling provides clarity,” the company said in a statement. “Volkswagen is now seeking to bring these proceedings to a prompt conclusion in agreement with the plaintiffs."

As she left the courtroom, Volkswagen attorney Martina de Lind Wijngaarden said the company would approach plaintiffs “as quickly as possible” to reach settlements.

The case that was decided Monday involved a plaintiff, Herbert Gilbert, who bought a Volkswagen Sharan model in 2014 that was equipped with the software that turned off emissions controls during testing. He had sought the full purchase price but the court ruled he must accept less due to depreciation related to the distance he drove. The individual case is expected to serve as a guideline for others.

Despite not receiving the full price in return, Gilbert called it “a great day” and a “great verdict."

“It is the ruling I was expecting, which not only helps me, but also helps many thousands of plaintiffs who are still waiting in line to end their lawsuits,” he told reporters.

Volkswagen was caught cheating by U.S. authorities in September 2015 and has since paid more than 33 billion euros in fines and settlements worldwide. Two executives went to prison in the United States and more are facing criminal proceedings and investigations in Germany.

Volkswagen still faces lawsuits from investors.

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McHugh reported from Frankfurt, Germany.