Remember the small claims suit, brought by a Los Angeles woman against Honda? The suit that has lawyers that are allegedly fighting to get justice for their clients more worried than care companies? Gee, what if everybody goes to small claims, where, in many jurisdictions lawyers are verboten? The court has spoken, and awarded the woman close to the $10,000 that are the maximum in California. Now, the matter is in the hands of the lawyers again.
“A Los Angeles County court commissioner ruled that American Honda Motor Co. negligently misled Civic owner Heather Peters when it claimed the hybrid could achieve as much as 50 miles per gallon.
Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan, who mailed his 26-page decision to Peters and Honda, awarded her $9,867.19 in damages. That is close to the maximum $10,000 allowed in Small Claims Court that the Los Angeles resident was seeking.”
A copy of the 26 page decision, probably one of the longest ever handed down by Small Claims, can be downloaded here.
Donald Earl Childress III, who teaches civil procedure at Pepperdine University School of Law, calls the win was “amazing” and thinks it could affect litigation strategy in California and other states that don’t allow lawyers to represent either side in Small Claims Court:
“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.”
It may have been a pyrrhic victory. The The Nikkei [sub] reports that Honda will appeal by early March at the latest. “The appeals trial will be heard as an ordinary lawsuit,” with lawyers present.
Or, it may have been a clever publicity stunt on the part of Ms. Peters, a former attorney. More than 500 owners have contacted her through her website, DontSettleWithHonda.org. According to the LA Times, “Peters said she planned to reactivate her state law license so that she can represent other Civic owners in litigation against Honda.” She would have a nice list of prospective clients.