Earlier this month, a Superior Court Commissioner sitting in small claims court in Torrance, California held that a plaintiff (who opted out of a class action) was entitled to a judgment against the American Honda Motor Co, Inc. because she did not get the gas mileage (or mpg’s) which Honda claimed her 2006 hybrid would get. Finding that some of her claims were pre-empted by federal statute or otherwise barred, the Commissioner applied basic statutory and/or common law to determine that Honda had negligently misrepresented how great the mileage would be in its 2006 hybrid. (Peters v. Honda ) While Honda claimed and advertised that a consumer would get 50 mpg’s, the plaintiff – Heather Peters (a lawyer) – found that she got considerably lower than the 50 mpg “she had been led to believe would be the case. . . .” (Id. at p. 10). Initially, she got 40 mpg’s and after a software update, she got 30 mpg’s.
Consequently, the court awarded her the cost of the extra fuel, (past, present and future.) It also awarded her damages for diminution in sales value; that is, the loss she will suffer in value when she sells the vehicle. Finally, it awarded her the cost of a new battery. The total award was $9,534.32 (plus court costs of approximately $332 for a grand total of $9,867.19) (Id. at p. 25.)
Why did Ms. Peters opt out of a class action? Because purportedly, the class action settlement was paying $8.5 million to the attorneys and as little as $100 and rebate coupons for the purchase of a new car to each class member or hybrid owner! (See, http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-honda-loses-civic-lawsuit-20120201,0,6604197.story )
No doubt, Honda will appeal the adverse judgment. As an appeal from small claims court is a completely new trial, in which both sides proceed all over again, neither party will be bound by what happened in small claims court.
There is a moral here somewhere, and I am not quite sure what it is. It reminds me of the quote from William Shakespeare’s play Henry the Sixth, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2, 71-78, “The first thing we do, let’s kill the lawyers.”
Perhaps, this is why I have morphed into being a full time mediator.
. . .Just something to think about.
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