— The Volkswagen emissions scandal is apparently far from over as the automaker looks at possibly paying billions of dollars more than it already has.
That possibility exists because the U.S. Supreme Court rejected VW's appeal of a lower court ruling that may place a "staggering liability" on the automaker.
Legal actions from two counties accuse Volkswagen of manufacturing 2009-2015 diesel vehicles with illegal emissions systems that caused the vehicles to pass emissions testing in the lab while polluting the atmosphere during normal driving.
VW appealed to the Supreme Court after an appeals court ruled Salt Lake County Utah and Hillsborough County Florida could sue over illegal emissions defeat devices installed on several VW models.
The original lawsuit filed by those two counties was dismissed in 2018 after the counties failed to convince a judge VW continued to pull the fraud each time a vehicle was brought in for service.
But the counties appealed to the Ninth Circuit which reversed the dismissal by ruling software updates, dealer visits for recalls and visiting dealers for typical service kept the scam alive throughout the years.
Although VW argued the Environmental Protection Agency had the final call regarding emissions, the appeals court ruled the EPA regulations applied to brand new vehicles, not used models. The appeals court ruling and Supreme Court decision has now opened the door for every county in the U.S. to file lawsuits.
According to VW, the emissions scandal has already cost the automaker about $35 billion worldwide, with $23 billion of that paid for 585,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S.
The automaker argues the federal Clean Air Act preempts all state and county claims, a view not held by the appeals court ruling that opened VW to another $70 billion in penalties.
A separate Ohio case that was also dismissed was given new life when the Tenth District Court of Appeals ruled VW could be sued by Ohio to represent about 14,000 residents. Volkswagen says the ruling could cost more than $120 billion per year between 2009 and 2015.