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.

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.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Account Manager

    £30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor - Automotive

    £21000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

    Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary - Family Law

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing professional legal pr...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Java

    £24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting and disruptive co...

    Day In a Page

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935