Heather Peters, owner of a Honda Civic Hybrid, sued Honda in small-claims court in Torrance, California for receiving misleading information from the company. The woman claimed that her car could achieve around 20 miles per gallon, not 50 as the company claimed.
A Los Angeles County court commissioner ruled that the company negligently misled Heather Peters. Court Commissioner awarded her $9,867.19 in damages. This lawsuit will bring some changes for both Small Claims Court and class-action litigation.
“It is a victory for Civic Hybrid owners and consumers everywhere,” said Peters, a former lawyer. “Sometimes big justice comes in small packages.”
If she had signed onto a class-action-lawsuit settlement over similar claims, her award would have been far smaller than the one she received. The owner sued Honda when she found out that the proposed settlement for her car would pay trial lawyers $8.5 million, and only $100 and rebate coupons for the purchase of a new car for the Civic hybrid owners.
But Peters has not yet seen any money. “We disagree with the judgment rendered in this case, and we plan to appeal the decision,” Honda said.
“The fact that she won says that well-informed plaintiffs who forsake a class-action settlement and decide to take things into their own hands in the correct way may be vindicated in Small Claims Court. You need one person to stand up and get the win, and then other people will do it too,” said Donald Earl Childress III, who teaches civil procedure at Pepperdine University School of Law.