Consumer Law

Appeals Court Overturns $10K Small Claims Verdict Against Honda for Hybrid Mileage Claims


A judge has overturned a nearly $10,000 small-claims award to a lawyer dissatisfied with the mileage on her 2006 Honda Civic hybrid.

Heather Peters, who decided to go to small claims court rather than join a class action settlement, made news when she was awarded $9,867 earlier this year. But a California judge hearing the false-advertising case on appeal said federal regulations control fuel economy as well as related advertising claims, report the Los Angeles Times, MSNBC.com and the Associated Press. Peters was an ex-lawyer when she initially won the case; she has since reinstated her license.

Judge Dudley Gray II said in his ruling on Tuesday that EPA mileage estimates are for comparison purposes and don’t take into account variation such as people’s driving habits. California law does not allow for further appeals.

Peters said Honda had claimed her hybrid could get 50 miles a gallon, but she never got more than 41 miles a gallon. According to the Times, Honda has acknowledged that batteries in its 2006 through 2008 hybrids could deteriorate and fail earlier than expected. Fuel economy is affected when the battery can’t be charged to full capacity.

In the class action case, Civic hybrid owners will be awarded $100 to $200 each, along with rebates on a new Honda, under a deal approved by a California court last month. Peters’ initial success inspired about 1,700 Honda owners to opt out of the settlement, though it’s unclear how many filed small claims cases, the Associated Press says.

The Times says the automaker is facing at least 36 small-claims cases across the nation. The stories differ over how many suits Honda has won so far this year: either 18 total wins, including Peters’ case, or 16 out of 17 suits, or 17 out of 18 suits.

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