California woman wins Civic Hybrid lawsuit against Honda

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 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.

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