Small Claims Case Won, Goes To Real Court Now

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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.

Says the LA Times:

“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, 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.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Herm Herm on Feb 04, 2012

    Honda reprogrammed the car to put less strain on the battery (read that as a lower level of assist), the batteries were failing at an increased rate and that was their "solution".. but if Honda can prove the car still gets the same EPA number as before then there is no case. How could it get the same numbers with less assist?.. because the EPA cycles are somewhat gentle. Is there a warranty on performance even if the car continues to work adequately? Meanwhile both Ford and Toyota did a proper design job and have no issues with their batteries. I believe the battery warranty in California is 10 years, per CARB requirements.

  • Hondaaustin Hondaaustin on Feb 05, 2012

    Two items: 1. Please note: In the picture above this article, she is driving the car in question. 2. She might be an inefficient driver... In my Civic I get 28-31 MPG city, my wife gets 20-23 MPG city... YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY.

  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.
  • Aja8888 Someday in the far away future, all cars will look the same, people will be the same color, dogs will be all mixed beyond recognition, and governments will own everything. That car looks like my son's Hyundai Tucson without badges.
  • Tassos Of course, what the hell did you expect? A SERIOUS, BEAUTIFUL car you can ACTUALLY USE AS YOUR DAILY DRIVER???............. NOOOOO, THIS IS TIM WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. SO HE FINDS SOME OBSOLETE POS WHICH IS 22 years old, .............AND HE PURPOSELY MISSES THE BEAUTIFUL MODEL, THE Classical Beauty E39 that ended in 2003. ...........So he uses his column as a WASTEBASKET once again, to throw the first year of BMWs BANGLED 5 series (as in the INFAMOUS CHRIS BANGLE WHO SCREWED UP THE DESIGN ROYALLY). ................................................ As Dr. Evil, Fake Doctor Jill Biden would scream at the top of her voice, so her senile idiot husband could hear her, "Good Job, (Tim)! You answered all the questions and ticked all the boxes!" ..... KEEP UP THE S---Y work, Tim!