There is more than meets the eye in the recent small claims court case where a former attorney was awarded a nearly $10,000 judgment because her Honda Civic hybrid car did not get the fuel economy advertised.
Plaintiff Heather Peters, a former attorney, took her case to California's small claims court after opting out of a class-action lawsuit when she learned that Civic hybrid owners would receive $100 to $200 each and a $1,000 coupon toward the purchase of a new car in the suit. California's small claims court, where lawyers are not allowed to represent either side, allows for judgments of up to $10,000 per case. Peters, who still owns her 2006 Honda Civic hybrid, was awarded $9867.19 in damages due to battery costs, diminished value of the car and additional gas costs, both past and future.
Honda, which is appealing the decision, stated that it was simply following the federal regulations for stating fuel economy, which is that the car can achieve "up to 50 mpg" and that "actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle."
The court commissioner who issued the ruling said that the claims go beyond the mpg numbers listed on the car's window sticker. The commissioner said that Peters had identified numerous misleading statements by Honda, including that the car would use "amazingly little fuel," and that it "provides plenty of horsepower while still sipping fuel," and that these statements constituted fraud, though he did not find any evidence it was intentional.
The case will be heard in the Superior Court of California, where attorneys for Honda will be allowed to present their case. Peters says that she plans to reactivate her state law license so she can represent other Civic owners that want to opt out of the class-action lawsuit.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.