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Caroline Hoag and Paul Byrne on Monday (October 19) filed a putative class-action suit in U.S. district court against Volkswagen AG, its American branch, and individuals.

They aren't the first San Diegans to go after Volkswagen after learning the German automaker installed software in their vehicles that would defeat smog-testing equipment.

Hoag and Byrne are charging the company with "one of the most brazen corporate crimes in history." The plaintiffs are represented by the San Diego law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, which has much experience in class-action suits.

Among many charges against VW is violation of the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act, which originally was passed as a measure to thwart organized crime but has since been extended to other cases.

"The linchpin of Volkswagen's scheme was a 'defeat device' that it designed for the specific purpose of cheating smog tests," thus permitting hundreds of thousands of cars to spew "millions of pounds of pollution — up to 4000 percent of legal limits," charges the suit.

The suit says the Department of Justice and "at least 45 state attorneys general have announced they are investigating Volkswagen's misconduct, along with other criminal and civil investigations underway across the globe."

The suit charges that Volkswagen's action has caused between 16 and 94 deaths over the years due to the pollution.

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