Heather Peters sued Honda in small-claims court in Torrance, California over the gas mileage she was getting in her Honda Civic Hybrid, which was around 20 miles per gallon less than Honda had advertised. After two days of testimony, Commissioner Doug Carnahan sent his 26-page decision to both Peters and Honda, with a ruling in favor of Peters and $9,687 awarded in damages. That's just short of the $10,000 maximum that can be won in small-claims court.

In the decision, Carnahan wrote "At a bare minimum Honda was aware ... that by the time Peters bought her car there were problems with its living up to its advertised mileage." He went further, indicating that he found Honda to have committed fraud, but not intentional fraud.

According to a report in the Associated Press, Honda's EPA certification engineer said Honda "was required to post a sticker with the Environmental Protection Agency's estimate of the highest mileage the car could get." (In a previous report from Automotive.com he was characterized as saying that "automakers had no option but to adhere to the federal testing procedures.") While that claim was shot down by earlier precedent where it was shown that automakers had cited lower fuel economy numbers than the EPA in their advertising and marketing, it will be interesting to see whether this line in Carnahan's decision comes up again: "Honda's own testing should be the guideline for how it advertises its vehicles' mileages, not the generalized work ... done by the EPA."

And we can be certain it will since Honda has already stated its intention to appeal. And because the appeal will be held in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the way has been cleared for Honda to get its lawyers in the courtroom.

This gives other plaintiffs in the class action suit over Civic Hybrid mileage an option as to how to proceed. The last day to sign onto the settlement of that earlier suit is February 11, however, even if that case remains unfinished; a judge in San Diego won't rule until March on whether that settlement, which would see plaintiffs get a $100 to $200 and $1,000 discount on a new Honda and trial attorneys get $8.5 million, is fair.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 166 Comments
      Kimura
      • 3 Years Ago
      "...plaintiffs get a $100 to $200 and $1,000 discount on a new Honda and trial attorneys get $8.5 million..." And that there is a very telling example of who gets screwed in this country.
        bobmarley
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Kimura
        Nobody said you have to work at taco bell for the rest of your life.
      carboy55
      • 3 Years Ago
      Suing for bad gas mileage. Class action plaintiffs getting a few hundred bucks each, while the trial attorneys get $8.5 million. What's wrong with this country?
        chris
        • 3 Years Ago
        @carboy55
        The entire judicial system, for starters.
      Mark
      • 3 Years Ago
      Try using gas without ethanol.
      kcroc10077
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm not a lawyer, don't play one on TV, and don't know the intricacies of our legal system but I thought one of the purposes of small claims court was to get rid of the lawyers. Can small claims court judgments be appealed and if so why wouldn't there be some type of appeal mechanism within the small claims court system? Having the appeal go to the LA superior court defeats the entire purpose.
      brenden
      • 3 Years Ago
      Honda "was required to post a sticker with the Environmental Protection Agency's estimate of the highest mileage the car could get." ---- "Honda's own testing should be the guideline for how it advertises its vehicles' mileages, not the generalized work ... done by the EPA." face, meet palm.
      mdennis7352
      • 3 Years Ago
      Some people are missing the point she was getting close to the mileage until honda rigged it not to What they really should do is be required to hire a test driver from the real world not some special pro driver and have them drive the car for 5000 miles in mixed driving and report what they really got. It is not that hard, I laugh when people report much more MPG than what they are supposed to get because most of the time they are being consistant in their methodology when figuring out the MPG. Unless you are employing hyper mileage techniques you should just subtract 5mpg off what the epa claims for most cars. All car companies should be required to do the real world driving test and publish these results to all car buyers, but they don't want to because the EPA #'s are better.
      throwback
      • 3 Years Ago
      "He went further, indicating that he found Honda to have committed fraud, but not intentional fraud." What the heck does that mean? Lawyers, only they can understand each other. If car companies can quote a lower number than the EPA, I would not be surprised to see even more numbers listed on the stickers. EPA number and the car companies somewhat lower mpg number, so as to avoid another lawsuit.
      CaDreamer7
      • 3 Years Ago
      So what is her point? Should we all sue everytime something doesn't live up to our expectations. That should tie the courts up intil the end of time. There is one in every bunch.
      ss1591
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am not sure where the writer gets their info but small claims court is not transferable to other courts "ever". The whole idea was to create a Lawyer free system and unless there is fraud on the part of the person bringing the claim it stays in small claim court. Some states do allow appeals under very limited rules but even if it would be reheard no lawyers are allowed. I wish the small claims system would be lifted to $25k because with inflation it is way to low and using a Lawyer on smaller cases make them not pursuing.
        bagthepi
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ss1591
        In California, Small Claims court rules allow for the losing defendant to appeal the decision, and attorneys are allowed at the appeal hearing. I've been doing Small Claims for 30 years and that has always been the case. Just this year the state raised the limit to $10,000 in Small Claims, but they failed to consider that we have fewer judges and commissioners now due to budget cuts, so the limit increase is really creating a huge burden in the Small Claims court system. I have appeared before Carnahan on many occasions and he is one of the most seasoned and well reasoned commissioners that I have ever met. His decision in this case was 26 pages long. I guarantee he covered all the bases. Stay tuned for the next episode.....either Honda settles or appeals.
      CJ_S4
      • 3 Years Ago
      Goo!
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Avinash Machado
      • 3 Years Ago
      Will Hyundai be next?
    • Load More Comments