Small claims victory against Honda overturned

Judge says slogans don’t promise anything

Heather Peters deviated from the norm in January when she opted out of a class action suit against Honda over the automobile maker’s hybrid cars failing to meet consumers’ expectations on gas mileage. Peters was unhappy with the mileage, but instead, she took the auto-giant on herself—dragging it into small claims court and asking the judge to 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.

In February, a small claims court in Los Angeles found in favor of Peters. Judge Douglas Carnahan ruled that Honda misled Peters by claiming her vehicle could get 50 miles per gallon when in actuality it got much less. He awarded her $9,867.

But on Tuesday, that ruling was overturned. California Superior Court Judge Dudley Gray said in his ruling the Honda hybrid owners could not sue the company over its use of advertising slogans, which claimed the cars used “amazingly little fuel” and save “plenty of money on fuel,” because they don’t promise anything.

Peters, who is a lawyer, said California law prevents her from appealing the ruling. "Obviously, I'm disappointed," she told Thomson Reuters in a phone interview. "Honda used to be a brand that would go the extra mile on customer service."

Chris Martin, a spokesman for American Honda Motor Co., said the company is pleased with the decision, "which affirms that Honda was truthful in its advertising of the fuel economy potential of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid."


Cathleen Flahardy

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