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Honda Wins Small Claims Lawsuit

Honda Civic Peters.jpgThe ongoing saga of one woman’s pursuit for justice against Honda is finally at an end. Heather Peters opted out of a class action lawsuit, and took her case to small claims court in California. She alleged that her Civic Hybrid did not receive anywhere near the gas mileage as claimed by Honda; and that the vehicle was harmed by software updates. She prevailed at the small claims court level, with a verdict of $9,867.19.

Honda appealed the decision to the Superior Court, where the court heard the case from the beginning (called a de novo trial). A three-day trial was held. Honda convinced the judge that Honda was permitted to advertise the EPA-approved gas mileage numbers, even though the numbers were later adjudged inflated by the EPA. Interestingly, the Court found that “[t]he majority of users report mileage very close to the EPA estimates.”

In her press release, Ms. Peters commented that:

It’s a sad day when regulations designed to protect consumers are used against them. I’m certain that the EPA and FTC never intended to shield Honda from liability for advertising claims that a court of law determined to be false.

Under California law, the Superior Court appeal was Ms. Peters’ last chance. Ms. Peters also observed in closing out her press release that people who opted out of the class action lawsuit may still be able to opt back in. Perhaps that’s an indication that she wishes she just took what little money she could get.

For my part, Ms. Peters was brave to go about it at her own, and she showed remarkable mastery of social media to bring attention to her cause. Even if she was ultimately unsuccessful, she brought much public attention to the problem. Honda claims that it has won 16 out of 17 similar cases brought since January.

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