Honda wins reversal of small-claims loss over hybrid mileage
LOS ANGELES -- Honda Motor Co. won the reversal of a $9,867 small-claims-court loss to a Californian who dropped out of a class-action lawsuit and pursued her own claim that the company overstated the fuel mileage of its Civic Hybrid.
Judge Dudley W. Gray II of state Superior Court in Torrance, in Los Angeles County, ruled today in the case of Heather Peters, according to an entry on the court docket.
Peters had rejected the class-action settlement, which paid car owners $100 or $200 depending on the model and as much as $1,500 credit toward a new vehicle. Peters and plaintiffs in the larger suit challenged the company's claim that the car gets 50 miles a gallon of fuel.
A small-claims judge in February agreed with Peters that Honda's advertising misrepresented the mileage of her 2006 Civic Hybrid and awarded her damages. He rejected Honda's claims that it's stuck with the estimate provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
About 1,700 Honda owners have opted out of the class-action settlement, according to Peters' Web site about the case.
In his decision, Gray said owners could not sue over Honda's use of advertising slogans that its vehicles use "amazingly little fuel" and save "plenty of money on fuel," saying such slogans are "not specific promises of anything."
He also said that while Peters' fuel economy may have been less than she expected, most other owners of her type of car come "very close" to estimates from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Peters, who has practiced law, claimed that Honda could owe more than $2 billion had all affected owners opted out of the class-action settlement and sued in small-claims court.
The court that approved the class-action settlement valued that accord at $170 million. Lawyers for the plaintiffs had estimated its value at between $87.5 million and $461.3 million.
Peters, who represented herself in the case, said California law does not allow her to appeal Tuesday's decision.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed," she said in a phone interview. "Honda used to be a brand that would go the extra mile on customer service."
Peters said she still has her Civic, and that it has recently been getting 25 miles per gallon. "I wish I could get rid of it, I can't afford to," she said.
Chris Martin, a spokesman for American Honda Motor Co., said the company is pleased with Gray's decision, "which affirms that Honda was truthful in its advertising of the fuel economy potential of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid."
Peters, on her Web site, urged other Honda owners to follow her strategy. However, Honda said it has prevailed in small claims court in all but one of 17 similar cases filed this year, and is deciding whether to appeal the ruling it lost.
From Bloomberg, Reuters reports.Contact Automotive News