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Ex-Lawyer Reconsiders Legal Career After Winning Unusual Small Claims Case Over Honda Hybrid

Posted Feb 2, 2012 7:43 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Updated: Rather than join a class action making many similar claims, a former lawyer who owns a Honda Civic hybrid took her complaints against her car's manufacturer to small claims court and won.

A Torrance Small Claims Court Commissioner ruled that American Honda Motor Co. misled the woman by claiming the hybrid could achieve as much as 50 miles per gallon, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Heather Peters, who maintained she never got more than 41 miles per gallon, was awarded $9,867 in damages, just shy of the $10,000 she was seeking.

"It is a victory for Civic Hybrid owners and consumers everywhere," Peters, identified as a former lawyer, told the Times. "Sometimes big justice comes in small packages."

The Times notes that her damage award is greater than any she would likely collect in a class action. Peters opted for the small claims route after learning a proposed class action settlement would result in $8.5 million for trial lawyer fees, with car owners receiving as little as $100 and rebate coupons for a new car.

Honda has vowed to appeal, saying in a statement published by the Times on Thursday: "American Honda believes that the judgment in this case is a radical and unprecedented departure from California and federal law."

Peters, who contends she's been contacted by about 500 hybrid owners through her DontSettleWithHonda.org website, told the Times she hopes to reactivate her state license so she can represent Civic owners in litigation against Honda.

Previous Coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Ex-Lawyer Opts Out of Class Action over Hybrid Mileage, Goes to Small Claims Court"

Last updated at 7:14 a.m. Friday to add the statement from Honda.

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