Archive for Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Woman sues Honda in small claims court

January 4, 2012

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— A Los Angeles woman who expected her hybrid Honda Civic to be a high-mileage machine wants the automaker to pay for not delivering the 50 mpg it promised. But rather than being one of thousands in a class-action lawsuit, she took her case Tuesday to small claims court.

Experts said Heather Peters has a better chance of winning her case in a court with more relaxed standards and could get a payout many times higher than the few hundred dollars offered to class-action plaintiffs.

Peters said she’s been contacted by hundreds of owners who also want to take their chances with small claims, where there are no attorneys’ fees and cases are decided quickly.

“If I prevail and get $10,000, they have 200,000 of these cars out there,” said Peters.

Peters, a state employee and ex-lawyer, argued that Honda knew her car wouldn’t get the 50 mpg as advertised before a judge in Torrance, where American Honda Motor Co. has its West Coast headquarters. As her 2006 vehicle’s battery deteriorated over time, it barely got 30 mpg, she said.

Neil Schmidt, a technical expert for Honda, called Peters’ $10,000 claim excessive for her 2006 Civic Hybrid. He said the federal government had required Honda to post the highest mileage the car could get but said the mileage varies depending on how the car is driven — for instance, if it gets stuck often in stop-and-go traffic.

Peters said she would have never purchased the car if she had known that.

“The sales force said 50 miles per gallon, but they didn’t say if you run your air conditioning and you remain in stop-and-go traffic, you’re going to get 29 to 30 miles per gallon,” she said. “If they did, I would have gotten the regular Civic.”

Peters never contacted Honda to complain or express any concern about her vehicle’s fuel economy until she sent a letter in late November 2011 and then filed her suit shortly thereafter, Honda said in a statement Tuesday.

“Once the suit was filed, Honda immediately offered to inspect her vehicle and work with her on the findings, but those offers were rejected,” the company said in the statement.

“The window sticker that was attached to her vehicle (as required by federal law) clearly indicated that her mileage would vary depending on driving conditions, options, vehicle condition and other factors,” the statement said.

But if Peters wins, and other Civic owners follow her lead, she estimates Honda could be forced to pay as much as $2 billion in damages.

Experts say there are upsides to Peters’ unusual move.

“I would not be surprised if she won,” said Richard Cupp Jr., who teaches product-liability law at Pepperdine University. “The judge will have a lot of discretion, and the evidentiary standards are relaxed in small claims court.

Comments

budman 3 years, 3 months ago

Has anyone told her how the case where the lawyer sued over a lost pair of pants turned out.

Absolutely frivolous.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

"“Once the suit was filed, Honda immediately offered to inspect her vehicle and work with her on the findings, but those offers were rejected,” the company said in the statement.

“The window sticker that was attached to her vehicle (as required by federal law) clearly indicated that her mileage would vary depending on driving conditions, options, vehicle condition and other factors,” the statement said."

"Neil Schmidt, a technical expert for Honda, called Peters’ $10,000 claim excessive for her 2006 Civic Hybrid. He said the federal government had required Honda to post the highest mileage the car could get but said the mileage varies depending on how the car is driven — for instance, if it gets stuck often in stop-and-go traffic."

My question:

Where did she get the number "50 mpg"? Perhaps she confused with reality with a very vivid dream, or it could be that she is schizophrenic.

From: The Official U.S. Government Source For Fuel Economy Information: (for the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid) 42 combined, 40 city, 45 highway

Clipped from: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/22643.shtml

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

Where did she get the number "50 mpg"?

From the article--

“The sales force said 50 miles per gallon, but they didn’t say if you run your air conditioning and you remain in stop-and-go traffic, you’re going to get 29 to 30 miles per gallon,” she said. “If they did, I would have gotten the regular Civic.”

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

That is what she claims they said. That is not proof that they actually said that. I'm sure that point will be brought up in court.

jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

Even with those figures, if she's only getting 30mpg in the city, it's not meeting the advertised specs.

madameX 3 years, 3 months ago

That's what she's getting now that the car is 6 years old and the battery is wearing out. It doesn't say what she got when the car was new.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

I bet I could drive that car and demonstrate an honest 15 miles per gallon!

madameX 3 years, 3 months ago

Um, as a lawyer she's aware that small claims decisions can be appealed, right? If she wins I doubt Honda is just going to say "Oh, well, I guess we'll just leave it at that and leave ourselves open to millions of other small claims cases!"

madameX 3 years, 3 months ago

Also, if the dealer told her the car would get 50 mpg that might not be Honda's responsibility since they probably don't direct control over sales tactics at individual dealerships. Regardless, it's pretty common sense knowledge that you're going to get the worst possible mpg sitting in stop-and-go traffic, especially after six years of wear and tear on the car.

jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

This is an interesting case.

Consumers need to be very informed, assertive, and clear about what they're buying, and who's selling it to them before buying things, especially large ticket items like new cars.

On one hand, I think that those selling such items have an obligation to be truthful, and should be held accountable when they're not, and on the other, I think consumers have an obligation to educate themselves, use common sense, and not believe whatever the salesperson says.

In this case, I think it was somehow a combination of aggressive and misleading salesmanship, and a failure on her part to do some independent research before buying the car.

Clearly, given her driving habits, it wasn't worth the extra money for her to buy a hybrid Civic, and she would have been better off with a cheaper non-hybrid model.

If I ever bought a new car from a dealer, I would have numerous discussions about these topics before buying it, as well as doing some independent research of my own - I would never simply believe that I could get 50mpg driving in stop-go city traffic with the ac running - it seems rather unlikely.

madameX 3 years, 3 months ago

Looser? Is that like the new, looser slots they have a the Isle of Capri Casino?

But seriously, I'm willing to bet that Honda will be asking for attorneys fees, assuming that you can actually do that in small claims in California.

imastinker 3 years, 3 months ago

I hope that she gets counter sued for legal fees. This is beyond ridiculous.

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 3 months ago

Honda lost ONE round of the class action lawsuit, it's not over yet. Take a look at the end of the posted link:

  1. FINAL APPROVAL HEARING: A hearing will be held before the San Diego County Superior Court, Hall of Justice, 330 West Broadway, Department 72, San Diego, California 92101 on March 16, 2012, at 10:00 a.m., (“Final Approval Hearing”), Judge Timothy B. Taylor presiding. At the Final Approval Hearing, the Court will decide whether the proposed settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate and should be approved and, if so, approve the Attorneys’ Fee Award and Plaintiffs’ Incentive Awards. The time, date and location of this Final Approval Hearing may be changed by the Court without further notice to you. If you plan to attend the hearing, you should confirm its time, date and location. Any updates or changes on the time, date or location of this hearing will be posted on the HCH Settlement Website: www.hchsettlement.com.

  2. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: For additional information, you may contact the Settlement Administrator by writing to the address or calling the toll-free number listed below. The Settlement Administrator is not an affiliate of any party to the Lawsuits. Alternatively, you can visit the HCH Settlement Website.

• Visit the HCH Settlement Website at www.hchsettlement.com • Call the Settlement Administrator, toll free: 1-877-465-4797 • Write to: Settlement Administrator P.O. Box 2566 Faribault, MN 55021-9566 Please do not call or write the Court or the Office of the Clerk.


March 16, 2012 has not arrived yet, so the class action lawsuit is not over yet.

-----> If <----- the Court approves the proposed settlement at the Final Approval Hearing currently scheduled for March 16, 2012 and the settlement becomes Final, American Honda Motor Co. (“AHM”) will provide cash payments and other benefits to the Settlement Class.

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