VW takes local driver to court over diesel issue

Posted at 1:58 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 19:04:30-05

At 86-years-old, Walter Melnyk is taking on a giant... Volkswagen.

"I'm just a small guy going against a multi-million dollar company," Melnyk said. "They deceived the consumer which I don't think is right."

Volkswagen was caught cheating on emissions. The EPA said the vehicles don't run as clean as advertised. That's a big concern for Melnyk who already has breathing problems.

"I'm worried about my health," Melnyk explained.

Volkswagen's offer to customers includes free roadside assistance, a $500 Visa card, and a $500 dealer credit.

That left Melnyk feeling sour.

"The car is under warranty so how much money can I spend at Volkswagen?" Melnyk questioned as he laughed. "It's not a good offer."

So Melnyk filed a Florida Lemon Law claim. It's an option for Florida drivers who feel a defect in the car impacts safety, use or value. Melnyk's claim was accepted, but now VW is trying to block the case. They're taking Melnyk to court and burying him in legal documents.

"This could open a can of worms for them," Melnyk said.

"This is David versus Goliath in a big way," NewsChannel 5 Consumer Watchdog Jenn Strathman said.

"In a huge way. I go back to the 48 page brief that was filed," said lemon law attorney Patrick Cousins of Cousins Law Firm.

Cousins has reviewed thousands of lemon law cases, and says what Volkswagen is doing here is rare.

"It's surprising when I read the documents how adamant they are in trying to block the consumer," explained Cousins.

VW tried this with a similar Florida Lemon Law case late last year, and lost.

"They probably spent more money defending this than it would have cost to get the consumer out of the vehicle," Cousins said.

Melnyk is facing big time corporate lawyers and hasn't spent a dime on one for himself.

"I don't know what Volkswagen's big concern is. Other than they might lose. Then again they may win," Cousins explained.

Volkswagen lost round one.

Wednesday Melnyk will face off with Volkswagen's lawyers in front of the Florida Lemon Law board. He'll argue why his $28 thousand investment dropped in value.

"Are you going to back down?" Strathman asked.

"No. I'm going all the way," Melnyk said.

The other VW driver who filed a similar case in Jacksonville lost his Florida Lemon Law case in December. This latest case will be heard in West Palm Beach Wednesday.

Volkswagen and its attorneys have not returned our calls.

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