Honda owner takes company to small claims court

Customer says Civic Hybrid failed to deliver promised mpg

Rather than join a class action suit against Honda over the gas mileage on its Civic Hybrid, one unhappy customer has decided to take the Japanese automobile maker to small claims court.

Heather Peters has filed a small claims suit against Honda, asking that the court award her the maximum $10,000 against the company to compensate her for spending more on gas than she originally anticipated when she purchased the car.

A group of Civic Hybrid owners first filed a class action lawsuit against Honda in 2007 claiming the car’s fuel economy did not come close to meeting Honda’s claims. But Peters opted out of that suit when the proposed settlement of $200 cash and a $500 or $1,000 rebate to purchase a new Honda fell short of her expectations. She then decided to take her complaint to small claims court—and through her website, DontSettleWithHonda.org, she is urging others to do the same.

"I would not be surprised if she won," Pepperdine University Professor Richard Cupp Jr. told the Associated Press. "The judge will have a lot of discretion and the evidentiary standards are relaxed in small claims court." Cupp, who teaches product liability at the university’s law school, went on to cite an old saying: “If you want real justice, go to small claims court.”

In March 2010, a California judge rejected an original proposed settlement. A San Diego County judge will rule in March on the most recent proposed settlement, and class members have until Feb. 11 to accept or decline the agreement.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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