In autumn 2021, several individuals and representatives of the NGOs Deutsche Umwelthilfe and Greenpeace filed lawsuits at various German courts against car manufacturers (Volkswagen AG, Mercedes-Benz AG, BMW AG) and Wintershall Dea (see our previous blog post). The first oral hearing in one of these claims recently took place, on 20 May 2022, before the Detmold Regional Court.

In this claim an organic farmer, supported by Greenpeace, sued Volkswagen demanding that it takes measures to ensure greater climate protection. The farmer’s demands include (i) that between now and 2029, Volkswagen be limited to marketing vehicles with internal combustion engines to a maximum of 25 per cent of its vehicles and (ii) that from 2030 Volkswagen should not be allowed to sell vehicles with internal combustion engines at all.

At the oral hearing, the court raised various questions about the merits of the claim. In particular, the court expressed concerns as to whether the farmer had sufficiently demonstrated that his property and health rights were specifically affected by the activities of Volkswagen. Moreover, the court expressed doubts as to whether a group-wide liability of Volkswagen AG could be assumed for the activities of all Volkswagen’s group companies. The court also questioned whether Volkswagen could be ordered to cease and desist the production of internal combustion vehicles, despite acting lawfully. The judges suggested it is not the court that can order car manufacturers to take measures to ensure greater climate protection, but only the legislator.  

Both parties can now file written submissions, and a decision by the Detmold Regional Court is scheduled for 9 September 2022.