Honda Hybrid Civic Judgment Overturned


A judge had overturned a small claims judgment amounting to U.S.$10,000 against the American Honda Motor Co. The award was won by a Hybrid Civic Owner who claimed that the company misrepresented the vehicle’s capability to achieve fifty (50) miles per gallon.

The reversal was made by Superior Court Judge Dudley W. Gray II, after Honda appealed a court commissioner’s grant of damages to petitioner Heather Peters. The judge had found that Peters had the standing to sue in state court but it was federal rules that govern fuel economy ratings together with the advertising claims. It also found that most owners of this particular kind of vehicle were able to achieve fuel economy mileage near the estimates of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA miles per gallon ratings are done merely for comparison purposes between vehicles and does not consider other vehicular factors such as the condition of the car or the trip distance, both of which affects the car’s mileage performance.

The decision penned by Gray said, “Despite these many variables, most of the owners of the subject vehicle achieve fuel economy very close to the EPA estimate.” He added that the automaker’s advertising slogans “are not specific promises of anything.”

Peter, a lawyer herself, filed a small claims case on her out and opting out of the class action settlement that offered 200,000 Honda Civic Hybrid as much as U.S.$200 together with a rebate if they choose to purchase a new Honda. With the award in the small claims court, she was able to convince about 1,700 other hybrid owners to follow the route she had taken.

Honda for its part, said that there were no exact numbers for those that had opted out but it has already won sixteen of the seventeen cases filed in small claims court since January of this year.

The reversal of the ruling by the superior court judge would not have a direct effect on the other cases. Many legal observers though said that this route could pose a challenge to many others filing in small claims court. While it is not binding on other courts, according to an expert, it certainly is persuasive on others.

Peters for her part said she was disappointed with the ruling but glad as to the attention she had brought to her plight and to many others like her. She quipped, “They used to go the extra mile in customer service, now they go the extra mile fighting customers in court.” She made these comments on her personal website.

In a statement, Honda said, “We are never satisfied when a customer is anything less than satisfied with one of our products and the company does not relish the necessity to defend the truth in opposition to any of our customers.”

Honda Owner Takes Carmaker To Court


One Honda owner has taken matters into her own hands regarding the Civic Hybrid she had purchased. Heather Peters of Los Angeles is withdrawing her inclusion out of a proposed class action lawsuit settlement against the car giant and instead has filed suit amounting to $10,000 in small claims court. A hearing has been set for next week in Torrance, Ca.

Peters is urging other purchasers of the Civic Hybrid to follow her cause through a social media campaign and having a website that argues against the settlement. Initially, she was one of the 150,000 purchasers of Civic Hybrids from 2003 to 2009. The period stipulated is the coverage of the class action suit and others may also opt out until February 11, 2012.

The original suit was filed by two Civic Hybrid owners and the original plaintiffs claimed that the Civic Hybrid did not meet the claimed 51-mpg highway and 46-mpg city fuel economy ratings. These ratings were certified by the Environmental Protection Agency but the actual performance of the vehicle was only 31 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving.

A settlement proposal to the suit was rejected in March 2010 under the aegis of Judge Virginia A. Phillips of the US District Court for the Central District of California. Her ruling indicated that the settlement contained little value for the plaintiffs claim. This rejection of the settlement was seconded by twenty-six other state attorney generals that had joined the class action. A revised settlement was submitted and would be heard on March 16, 2012.

Honda for its part, through its spokesman Chris Martin, said, “I cannot comment on pending litigation.” This echoed the company policy on not commenting on the matter.

The initial settlement offer stipulated that Civic Hybrid owners that were willing to trade in their car would receive $1,000 coupon towards purchasing a new Honda. Other plaintiffs in the class action suit who would opt to keep their Hybrid were eligible for a $500 coupon. These coupons could not be used for the purchase of another Civic Hybrid, be it new or used. The revised settlement added $1000 cash payments and the company offered to provide free DVD tips to achieve better fuel economy. The car was redesigned and relaunched for 2012.

Ms. Peters claims she is a former corporate defense lawyer, said that lawyers would have received millions of dollars in fees under the agreement. She placed her claim for redress as the company owing her the charged “hybrid premium” she paid over and above the cost of a regular Civic amounting to nearly $7,000. She further claims that the company drastically reduced the resale value of her car together with the increased fuel costs she incurred in the use of the vehicle.