Woman sues Honda over hybrid claims

 

A woman who expected her high-tech hybrid to be a high-mileage machine wants car maker Honda to pay for not delivering the 50mpg it promised.

But rather than being one of thousands in a class-action lawsuit, Heather Peters has taken her fight to the small claims court and says it could lead to similar cases throughout the world.

Experts say Ms Peters, of Los Angeles, 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.

Ms Peters said she had been contacted by hundreds of owners, some from as far away as Australia, who also want to take their chances with small claims.

If other owners follow her lead, she estimates Honda could be forced to pay as much as $2bn (£1.3bn) in damages.

Ms Peters has launched a website, DontSettleWithHonda.org, urging others to take their complaints to the small claims court.

"If I prevail and get $10,000, they have 200,000 of these cars out there," she said.

Ms Peters, a state employee and ex-lawyer, argues that the Japanese manufacturer knew her 2006 Civic Hybrid would not achieve the 50mpg as advertised before a judge in Torrance, California, where American Honda Motor Company has its West Coast headquarters.

As the vehicle's battery deteriorated over time, it barely achieved 30mpg, she said.

Neil Schmidt, a technical expert for Honda, called Ms Peters' $10,000-dollar (£6,400) claim excessive.

He said the US government had required Honda to post the highest mileage the car could achieve, but said the mileage varied depending on how the car was driven - for instance, if it was often stuck in stop-start traffic.

But Ms Peters said she would have never bought 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."

Small claims courts generally handle private disputes that do not involve large amounts of money. In many states, that means small debts, quarrels between tenants and landlords and contract disagreements.

A victory for Ms Peters could encourage others to take the same simplified route.

Ms Peters opted out of a series of class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of Honda hybrid owners over the cars' fuel economy, when she saw a proposed settlement would give plaintiffs no more than $200 cash (£128) and a rebate of $500 (£320) or $1,000 (£641) to purchase a new Honda.

Honda sold about 200,000 of the cars over the period covered by the settlement, which would earn trial lawyers $8.5 million (£5.4m), Ms Peters said.

"I was shocked," she said. "I wrote to Honda and said I would take $7,500, which was then the limit on small claims in California. It is going up to $10,000 in 2012.

"I wrote the letter and I said, 'If you don't respond, I will file a suit in small-claims court'. I gave them my phone number. They never called."

Honda said today Ms Peters had never contacted the company to complain or express any concern about her vehicle's fuel economy until she sent a letter in late November and then filed her suit shortly afterwards.

"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 a statement.

The company also said it did not believe Ms Peters was deceived.

"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.

Superior Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan issued no immediate ruling in Ms Peters' case yesterday, but his staff said he would rule this week. Civil class-action cases almost always take years to resolve.

A judge in San Diego County is due to rule in March on whether to approve Honda's class-action settlement offer for hybrid owners. Plaintiffs have until February 11 to accept or reject the deal.

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there