State of Tennessee, Ex Rel. Herbert H. Slatery, III, Et Al. v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, Et Al.

State of Tennessee, Ex Rel. Herbert H. Slatery, III, Et Al. v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, Et Al.
M2018-00791-COA-R9-CV

At issue in this appeal is the breadth of federal preemption under Title II of the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7521 to 7590, for claims that pertain to: (1) the initial manufacture and installation of “defeat device” software in emissions control systems in automobiles, and (2) post-sale software updates of emissions control systems during manufacturer recalls. The State of Tennessee brought this action against several automobile manufacturers for violating state anti-tampering laws by tampering with the emissions control systems in more than 8,000 of their “clean diesel” vehicles that were registered and operated in Tennessee from 2008 to 2015. The manufacturers responded by filing Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) motions to dismiss arguing that all of the claims were preempted by the federal Clean Air Act. The trial court dismissed the claims that pertained to the initial manufacture and installation of emissions control systems for automobiles as expressly preempted by Section 209(a) of the act; however, the court denied the manufacturers’ motions to dismiss the claims that pertained to the post-sale software updates of emissions control systems during manufacturer recalls. We have determined that all of the State’s claims are preempted by the federal Clean Air Act. Therefore, we affirm the dismissal of the claims related to the initial manufacture and installation of emissions control systems, reverse the decision to deny the Rule 12 motions to dismiss the post-sale software updates and installations, and remand with instructions to dismiss all claims.

Authoring Judge: 
Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Originating Judge: 
Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman
Date Filed: 
Wednesday, March 13, 2019