diesel gate: The Supreme Court sentence for handling emissions Seat

manipulacion emisiones


Manufacturer and distributor were jointly convicted of manipulating the emission control software


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There is joint responsibility of the manufacturer with the seller regarding the final purchaser by installing software on the vehicle manipulates the results of pollutant emissions. There is a breach of contract by both the seller and the manufacturer put on the market and publicitó.

Although you can apply the principle of relativity of contracts collecting art. 1257 CCivil, it has to adapt to the current situation of the sector. Actually, there is a legal unit operation consisting in distributing car from manufacture to delivery to the ultimate purchaser, much involved different companies.

This is the approach taken by the First Chamber of the Supreme Court in its judgment of 11 March 2020, with Resolution No. 167/2020.That resolution, se estimó el recurso de casación interpuesto por Dña. Paula, jointly condemning Talleres Menorca, S.A., as dealer, y a SEAT, S.A., as a manufacturer, payment of 500 euros in compensation for damages, plus statutory interest accrued since the filing of the complaint.

Fact background,,es,Juan Alberto and Paulina filed suit against FTA,,es,Asset Securitization Fund,,es,requesting the declaration of nullity for abusive of the floor and ceiling clauses contained in the novation contract of the mortgage loan of,,es,with the corresponding refund of amounts unduly collected,,es,The Securitization Fund Management Company,,es,Beech,,es,acting on behalf of FTA, he responded to said claim alleging that he lacked passive legitimacy since the entity had no legal personality and that it constituted only a private and open fund and that therefore the passive legitimization corresponded to BBVA as successor of Catalunya Banc that was the Company fund constituent,,es

The 30 September 2013, Ms.. Paula bought from the official dealer of the Volkswagen Group in Maó, Talleres Menorca S.A., one vehicle seatibiza, with diesel engine, manufactured by the defendant, SEAT, S.A.

Two years after purchase, Ms.. Paula knew that the vehicle's engine had installed software that defused NOx emissions (combination of nitric oxide -NO- and nitrogen dioxide -NO2-) when it detected that the vehicle was being subjected to emission control, manipulating the results of measurements of emissions.

The 27 June 2016, Ms.. Paula filed a lawsuit against Talleres Menorca, S.L. and against SEAT, S.A. (seller and manufacturer of the vehicle, respectively). Annulment of the sales contract for defects of consent, or termination of the contract for default and compensation for moral damages. Alternative, demanded compensation for material and moral damages, because the vehicle did not meet the characteristics you offered, with respect to emissions.

Primera Instancia

The Court of First Instance No. 3 Mahon ruled on date 10 April 2017, refusing the application.

Provincial Court and handling emissions

Ms.. Paula appealed.

Third Section of the Audiencia Provincial de Palma de Mallorca gave judgment on 7 September 2017, partially estimating the appeal. He estimated the lawsuit filed by Ms.. Paula, in the sense of condemning Talleres Menorca, S.A., to pay to Ms. Paula the sum of 500 €, with legal interest from the date of filing of the application. He absolved Talleres Menorca, S.A. of the remaining claims are made against, and SEAT, S.A., He was acquitted of all, He appreciated as lack of passive legitimation, for not having concluded the contract with Ms.. Paula, to the exercise the only dispute with actions based on the contract of sale.

Tribunal Supremo sobre el “diesel gate”

Ms.. Paula appealed. It was based on the following reasons:

  • first plea."Lack of passive legitimization of Seat S.A., manufacturer distributor, marketer and ultimately responsible for after-sales service of vehicles affected by the inclusion of illegal software, based on the application of the article 1257 Civil Code, principle of relativity of contracts. Because of cassation interest in the form of opposition to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court (article 477.3 LECivil, represented by the judgments of this Court No. 586/1990, of 20 October 1990; nº 102/2004, of 25 February 2004; nº 616/2006, of 19 June 2006; nº 188/2015, of 8 April 2015; nº 517/2015, of 6 October 2015; and ).” 
  • second reason. "In the under Article 477.1 LECivil, for infringement of Article 394.1 – second paragraph- the law of civil rites to the order the plaintiff to express condemnation of the court costs accrued in the first instance by Seat S.A. This plea stands on the grounds of cassation interest in the form of opposition to the jurisprudence of the First Chamber of the Supreme Court (article 477.3 LECivil, represented by the judgments of this Court No. 739/2007, of 15 June 2007; nº 967/2007, of 14 September 2007; nº 675/1997, of 18 July 1997; and No 419/2017, of 4 July 2017 ".

It was understood to Talleres Menorca, S.A., as appeals withdrawn (by decree dated 21 January 2020).

The First Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled in date 11 March 2020, estimating the appeal by Ms.. Paula. He condemned SEAT, S.A., Workshops and Menorca, S.A., payment of 500 euros for Dña. Paula.

Regarding passive standing of the manufacturer of the vehicle, in this case, SEAT, S.A., the Chamber considered, even though that him article 1257 CCivil It refers to the principle of relativity of contracts ("Contracts take effect only between the parties that the grant and his heirs"), la sociedad, in economic structure, has changed.

Now, recruitment in the automotive sector has particularities, can justify the fact limit or make an exception to the principle of relativity of contracts. Special links are created between manufacturer, dealer and buyer.

"Between the manufacturer and the final buyer, although they have not formally entered into an agreement with each other, links are established with legal significance, such as those relating to the provision of security, additional to that intended by law, which it is usual in this sector, or enforceability by the consumer of the services offered in the advertising of the product, which generally it has been performed by the manufacturer and integrating the sales contract by which the consumer acquires the vehicle. Also, frequently, importer and distributor belong to the same corporate group as the manufacturer, or they are integrated into a commercial network in which the manufacturer has an important role, as is currently the case in networks automotive dealers.

Therefore, If the car does not meet the characteristics that was offered, with respect to the final buyer there is not only a breach of the direct seller, but also the manufacturer who put on the market and publicitó. And the damage suffered by the buyer directly corresponds to the default attributable to the manufacturer. "

Ultimately, the Chamber has considered the manufacturer of the vehicle responds as jointly and severally liable with the seller against the buyer, to putting on the market a car that did not meet the technical specifications of the manufacturer. Recognized manufacturer passive standing to answer the action brought by Ms. Paula and respond to damages arising from breach of contract.


On “diesel gate”, there joint and several liability between the manufacturer and the seller del vehículo, by the handling emissions. Although the engine was manufactured by another company of the group, internal relations between manufacturers are alien to the consumer. All this notwithstanding that the convicted can exercise the corresponding actions against the supplier that supplied the component defect.

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