Two more attorneys were brought on to help Smith County in a battle for funds from German-based Volkswagen for monetary damages related to accusations that the company installed devices to circumvent federal and state emissions regulations.
The state of Texas filed against the car manufacturer for damages because the vehicles exceeded the state’s regulations. Smith County could receive funding for every affected vehicle in its jurisdiction - 460 registered cars, said to Assistant District Attorney Phillip Smith.
There is a long court process ahead, but Smith said the county could receive half of the settlement funds for each car if the county joins the lawsuit. If they didn’t, the entire sum would go directly to the state, he said.
That sum will have to be determined by a court and will likely be based on whether the violation was negligent or intentional, Smith said.
In November, commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the Tyler-based Potter Minton law firm to work on the case based on a contingency fee, where the lawyers are paid through winnings.
On Tuesday, the Smith County Commissioners Court approved hiring an additional four attorneys based on a contingency fee. If the case does not move forward or if the court rules against the group of counties filing, Smith County will not be out any funds.
There are a total of four attorneys working the case. David Iglesias and Anthony Constant, were appointed to the case on Tuesday to join Allen Gardner and Glenn Thames Jr.
Banding together makes sense because of the amount of discovery in the case, which Smith said adds up to several terabytes of data. A chunk of that information will need to be translated from German.
That brings two main benefits to Smith County, Acting County Judge Nathaniel Moran said.
The first is economies of scale: A bigger firm can take on more counties, and that gives Smith County more negotiating power and the benefit of sharing costs. For the firm, it also means consolidating workflow and using the same basic information in several cases. The counties also split the cost.
The second benefit is in the wording of the contract, which states the firm will take on upfront costs associated with litigation, outside of the lawyer fees. That includes translators.
Smith County has not filed a lawsuit yet, but other counties have.