You Be The Judge - LawCall

You Be The Judge

A California woman’s story went from bad to worse after she bought her Honda. When Heather Peters paid more than $30-thousand for her Honda Civic Hybrid, she expected to get the promised fuel efficiency. According to the car’s window sticker and advertisement, the car should get 49 mpg in the city and 51 on the highway.

Peters was only getting 42 mpg even as she continued to take her car to the dealership for all service visits. She even received a software update from Honda to help prevent battery deterioration, and that’s when she says her gas mileage got even worse.

In October 2011, she received notice of a class action lawsuit filed against Honda for anyone who bought or leased a Civic Hybrid from the company between 2003 and 2009. The claim alleged that the fuel economy as advertised by Honda “could not be achieved under normal driving conditions”. The lawsuit promised up to $200 per unhappy consumer.

Peters, a lawyer, thought the settlement amount was ridiculously low and decided to go to small claims court. Her lawsuit claimed that Honda had “fraudulently represented gas mileage and hybrid performance, and fraudulently induced me to do a software update that made things worse.” She asked for $10-thousand dollars, the limit in California for such cases.

Honda argued that the problem was not theirs, but was with the EPA, who provided the mileage estimate. At the hearing, Honda also had many Civic Hybrid owners who testified that they had gotten great gas mileage. The company contended that gas mileage depended upon how the car was driven and maintained.

Is Honda liable for the gas mileage problem with Heather Peters’ car?

A Superior Court Commissioner ruled in Peters’ favor, but stated that while Honda was responsible, they had not intentionally committed fraud. Peters was awarded almost $10-thousand; however, a lower court overruled the lower court taking away her damage award and ordering her to pay $75-dollars, the cost of defending the case.

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