Honda Hybrid Small Claims Award Loses on Appeal

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on May 09, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A California woman's nearly $10,000 small-claims judgment over her Honda hybrid's mileage has been overturned on appeal.

A judge Wednesday ruled in favor of American Honda Motor Co.'s appeal of Heather Peters' $9,867 small-claims judgment, the Associated Press reports.

Peters, an ex-lawyer, argued Honda overstated the fuel economy of its hybrid cars when she won her small-claims case in February. But on appeal, another judge arrived at a different conclusion.

In California, a small-claims appeal is treated almost like a "do-over" -- the parties get an entirely new hearing in front of a different judge.

Both parties must re-argue their cases; testimony and evidence from the first small-claims hearing cannot be considered, according to court rules.

In Heather Peters' Honda hybrid suit, she claimed Honda was trying to get away with false advertising by claiming its hybrids were an alternative to high gas prices and would help the environment, the AP reports.

But the judge in the appeal found Honda's ads were "not specific promises of anything."

The judge also held that EPA mileage estimates were for comparison purposes, and don't account for other factors that can affect fuel economy. "Despite these many variables, most of the owners of the subject vehicle achieve fuel economy very close to the EPA estimate," the judge wrote, according to the AP.

Peters had encouraged other Honda hybrid owners to follow her lead in pursuing a small-claims case, instead of taking part in a class-action settlement that offered $100 to $200 payouts along with rebates, the AP reports.

But with the carmaker's successful appeal of Heather Peters' Honda hybrid judgment, it seems Peters has reached a dead end in her quest for consumer justice.

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