There is safety in numbers, and not the kind put out by the EPA.

That's what one California-based attorney representing class-action claimants against General Motors and Hyundai is saying in the wake of Heather Peters' now-unsuccessful attempt to sue Honda over allegedly overstating fuel economy figures for the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Redlands, Calif.-based McCuneWright LLP principal Richard McCune, fishing for business, obviously, notes that, among other things, plaintiffs lose both the right for attorney representation and the right to appeal, both of which class-action members have.

"If you are filing against a big company, you are already at a disadvantage when you enter the small claims courtroom," McCune said in a statement last week.

Of course, McCuneWright has skin in this particular game, as it's representing a number of plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits against General Motors and Hyundai over – you guessed it – fuel-economy claims.

That said, publisher Paul A. Eisenstein, in an AutoblogGreen editorial last week, essentially said the same, noting that class-action plaintiffs have a better record of success than those taking on large companies in small claims court.

Peters won a small-claims case worth almost $10,000 against Honda in February after a judge ruled in favor of her claim that Honda overstated the fuel-economy of her 2006 Civic Hybrid. Last week, a superior court judge reversed that ruling. The automaker had already agreed to pay out members of a larger class-action claim from $100 to $200 each and as much as a $1,500 discount on a new Honda purchase, an offer that about 1,700 Honda owners had accepted, according to the Detroit News.
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Miles per Gallon (MPG) Fraud -- Why Class Action Works Better than Small Claims

REDLANDS, Calif., May 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- When it was announced that Heather Peters won her lawsuit against Honda for alleged MPG advertising violations, it drew nationwide attention and several more small claims against the popular car company. Now we hear that Peters' small claims judgment was overturned in the Appeals process-a move that confuses consumers and begs the question, "How can a car company be held liable in a class action suit but not in Small Claims Court?"

"It has a great deal to do with legal knowledge and certain rights not available in a small claims action," stated Richard McCune of McCuneWright, LLP, in Redlands, CA. "If you are filing against a big company, you are already at a disadvantage when you enter the small claims courtroom."

According to McCune, whose firm has recently filed Class Action MPG-related lawsuits against GM and Hyundai, you lose three things in small claims court: 1) the right to an attorney; 2) the right to "Discovery" of evidence from the opposition; and, 3) the right to appeal. Only the defendant can file an Appeal and they can then have representation. For Honda that is an elite team of highly skilled attorneys.

"It appears Ms. Peters' lawsuit challenged ads that fall within federal protective guidelines for window sticker and EPA mileage claims," said McCune. "In contrast, when Hyundai made the same challenges in McCuneWright's ongoing class action, we provided illustrations of ads without the required disclaimers. The Court found it could be actionable if the claims were proven false; that allowed us to continue class action proceedings for consumers who may have been misled."

A class action attorney understands you have to show specific promises, not general slogans in advertising. That appears to be a mistake made by Peters in her case.

"If a company engages in practices not fair to consumers, the pressure of class action is one way to effect change," continued McCune. "Plaintiffs in MPG Fraud cases have suffered substantial loss related to their vehicles-and they don't want that to happen to anyone else."

McCuneWright has a long history of success for clients. Their multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements include a $203 million trial verdict in consumer fraud class action and a $35 million settlement in consumer fraud class action.
Richard McCune, Esq.
Phone: 909.557.1250
SOURCE McCuneWright, LLP
Source: PR Newswire (

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Smooth Motor
      • 3 Years Ago
      Class action lawsuits only benefit the blood ******* lawyers. They make millions and the consumer will get a check for 50 bucks in the "settlement". Biggest scam going.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Smooth Motor
        Each plaintiff could 'win' $10,000, but might get enough to fill up their tank once or twice. It is a big problem in this country.
      • 3 Years Ago
      This article is wrong, 1700 Honda Hybrid owners did not accept the settlement. We opted out.Nada ziltch rien du tout, tipota, nichevo. .
      • 3 Years Ago
      "There is safety in numbers, and not the kind put out by the EPA" Yes sure, like $100 to $200 for the plaintiffs and over 8 million bucks for the lawyers. I don't see the advantage of this kind of class action for the plaintiffs.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wonder if she is a lead footed driver because she is, course the car will give poor economy.
      • 3 Years Ago
      If only the IMA battery were inspected by an independent lab it could tell that the cells are deteriorating past their point of good working, and someone should also look into the software fix code.Honda knows the cells are failing, the software should be inspected and studied, it seems to have lowered the threshold of the fault light triggering. There are no doubts performances have dropped after the update. I refused the update for many months but Honda ended installing it in my car without my consent during a routine visit.I had it in writing that I refused the update. My wife can tell the car drive like a hog now. I'm not one for suing but Honda should fix the problem, it's just good business. 200 bucks are not gonna fix my battery. Never mind resale values. Increased fuel consumption is just a moot point now. Honda should remove the software update (patch) then fix or replace the battery if it fails.
      • 3 Years Ago
      You can see the details of the IMA battery warranty suit. The lousy mpg on the Hybrid was a side effect from the faulty battery, Honda has tried to fix the battery premature deterioration back in 2010 with a software update that actually aggravated the problems with the battery. I don't want money just a battery that will live up to its expectation. Read the details it is a little technical but you'll see why most people are upset. We bought a civic hybrid that drive like a regular civic and has worse performances. Honda was more than happy to have people focus on the EPA rating issue. They knew the real problem is the battery.
        Marco Polo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ Chris, It's curious that the IMA battery complaints seem largely confined to the US. This is probably due to a combination of factors. Honda's battery warranty, seems to have been a source of contention. Although the standard warranty offered world-wide is 8 years or 80,000 miles, most of the complaints come from owners demanding over 150,000 miles. It also appears that the driving habits and expectations of some owners may create or aggravate the problems experienced. Honda's IMA system seems less robust and more difficult to adjust to than Toyota. In addition many owners are confused by the EPA changing it's method of rating in 2008. Consumers, also don't seem to understand the 'term' defective. If you buy a new sweater because you thought it made you look thinner, only to find when you get it home, it's not really what you wanted, and you no longer think it makes you look thinner, doesn't make the sweater defective ! The IMA system may not be perfect, but in what way are the batteries defective ? Battery technology is racing ahead very quickly, it may well be that the newer, lithium battery technology is better suited for the IMA system. However, car manufacturers can't be expected to continually upgrade components. The auto industry is not the IT industry. So far all I have read is anecdotal evidence, not forensic, about the IMA systems failures. In one case a Honda dealer 'replaced' 10 complaining customers batteries, with a fake new cover, and took time to explain how the 'new' battery would need to be driven. All the owners repeated marked improvement's and satisfaction. Now, I'm not saying that there's nothing wrong with Honda's IMA system. Intermittent faults that can't be replicated on demand, can be very frustrating! However, I believe it would be useful to see a creditable expert report from the FTC laboratory at Ann Arbour, or a similar institution with definitive evidence of the battery 'defect ' . If that can be demonstrated, with forensic evidence that the IMA batteries were defective in manufacture, then Honda should recall all the batteries without question. So far, as Judge Grey pointed out, this has not been done. Is this to much too ask of 1700 litigants ?
      • 3 Years Ago
      "At least the 1700 client's of McCuneWright have the $100 to $200 each and a $1,500 discount on a new Honda" No Marco. The "1700 clients" opted out of the class action(no $100-$200 or discounts). I'm one of them. Your facts are wrong. On the other hand most of us 1700 are not going the small claim way but joined a 6th class action against Honda. This time Honda is being sued for not honoring the warranty of the faulty IMA battery.
      • 3 Years Ago
      A chance at $10K is better than a $150 coupon toward your next Honda.
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      I feel sorry for those who so passionately praised Heather Peters, only to discover that she's not a poor downtrodden consumer, but a cunning, ambulance chasing, bottom feeding lawyer, out to deceive her clients and trying to hi-jack her colleagues existing class action, in a most unethical way (even for that class of lawyer) ! Fortunately, the superior court, threw out the findings of the small claims court, and her now vary colleagues and clients have referred her conduct to the Californian Bar. One the bright side, she's a good deal better looking and more charming than most ambulance chasers !.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        So let me get this straight . . . the person that tried to help people recover a decent amount is the evil one and the big law firm that collects millions in fees and just gives the class participants $100 each are the good ones? And a sexist comment to boot!
          Marco Polo
          • 3 Years Ago
          Spec, In your desire to be politically correct, you ignore the facts ! Helen Peters, not just a 'person' she is a Litigation Lawyer ! Her motivation was not to help people recover anything, but to persuade people to pay her Law firm millions of dollars to conduct a totally spurious lawsuit that was always going to fail in the superior court. In contrast, what you mistakenly describe as a 'big' law firm, is in fact a small three partner practise, whose mediated class action, actually netted it's clients some benefit. Helen Peters 'grab for cash' was exceedingly cunning. By issuing as a consumer herself in the small claims jurisdiction, she was able to plead her case in a forum where Honda's Attorney's are barred from practising. Once she was successful, she then ran ad's and a website, encouraging Honda owners to leave the law firm running the class action, and join her small claims action. Because the small claims tribunal is free, and lawyers can appear . it all looked very noble. Except for one detail, her firm is allowed to charge for ' preparation and pretrial advice. ($275). This seemingly token fee, is not so token when you consider Helen Peters estimated she would attract up to 200,000 'clients' ( $55,000,000) ! (this info is off her own website) She belied that faced with a potential $ 2 billion payout in a jurisdiction where Honda's Lawyers could not appear, Honda would cave and make an offer ! This would allow her to 'take over' the other properly conducted class action. What see didn't count on was Judge Grey fastracking Honda's appeal and speedily over turning the judgement and ruling so devastatingly against her claim. Helen Peters 'clients' will now receive nothing. At least the 1700 client's of McCuneWright have the $100 to $200 each and a $1,500 discount on a new Honda. They were exceedingly lucky to have signed off on this prior to Judge Grey's ruling, or they too would have received nothing except a legal bill. Dick McCune maybe a litigation lawyer, but Helen Peters is whole different league of Shyster ! Oh, you also miss the fact that Judge Grey found Honda had no case to answer, so no one deserved to "recover" anything. I suggest you read his judgement with an unbiased and open mind.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Are we going to hear the same against Mazda in regards to Skyactiv? everyone know that you can not drive like a madman and get outstanding fuel economy at the same time...
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      @ Chris Mabecane. Chris, I dislike the abuses encouraged in US class action cases. I can understand the benefits of a group of aggrieved consumers (or victims) of large corporations banding together to achieve what would otherwise be unaffordable justice. I can also understand the point of view of t he lawyers, (especially if the lawyers finance the litigation, and are responsible for the costs if it fails). In the US system, it's not uncommon for lawyers to earn up to a third of the settlement fee. In the settlement case, lawyers costs were controlled by the judge who awarded $8 million. The Judge valued the class-action settlement at $170 million, $8 million, is only around 6%. not 33% . Tax and insurance would have eaten at least 70%. of the $ 8 million. After all the additional costs and administration are deducted the eventual amount received by the lawyers is probably relatively modest. Although class action law exists in the British system, it's a lot more difficult and far less lucrative for Lawyers. Honda is fighting at least 8 other class actions in the US. Honda's insurer's have so far recommended settling claims rather than fight . In the Heather Peters case, Honda decided it had had enough of grandstanding lawyers, posing as down trodden consumers, and fought back, winning very decisively ! It's not just corporations that can be litigious. Consumer groups or individuals, motivated by political or ideological idealism can create havoc with the US legal system. The real costs of these actions involve losses in employment for the corporations involved, a strain on the legal systems resources, creating delays and injustice to other litigants, expense for the taxpayer etc etc . Such legal action should not be taken lightly. or irresponsibly. Too often participation in a class action suit becomes an obsession for some litigants. I notice that you are so passionately involved, you have joined and commented on every website covering this issue. The behaviour of lawyers encourages excessive abuse of the class action process. Often the litigants are not really involved. The law firm sends a letter automatically including them in the class action if they don’t send back an form including an option to refuse to participate. In reality, most people don't bother to mail-back and exercise this option, figuring that it doesn't cost anything to join, and may get them a windfall. In the British-style system, class action litigants must actively participate in all stages of the proceedings. I have no idea about the the technical merits of your battery warranty claim against Honda. But after the Helen Peters judgement, Honda may become far more aggressive in defending such actions. Good luck
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