Woman Tries to Take Honda to Small Claims Court to Freeze Out Lawyers

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on January 03, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Consumers rarely opt-out of class action settlements. Some trash the notices and others forget after they're set aside. And if companies are really lucky, a few won't even submit a claim.

But Heather Peters is not an ordinary class member. She's upset with the Honda hybrid settlement and has launched a small claims court campaign. She's urging consumers to take the car manufacturer to court and ask for the statutory maximum.

The worst part for Honda? There may be no lawyers allowed.

The Honda hybrid settlement stems from accusations of false advertising involving the Civic's fuel economy. Advertisements boasted 50 miles per gallon, while the reality is closer to 30. Consumers will get approximately $100 and a non-transferable rebate if approved, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Peters opted out and has filed a small claims suit in California, according to the paper. She's asked for the new 2012 maximum of $10,000.

Like in many other states, plaintiffs and defendants may not be represented by lawyers in California's small claims courts. Companies may send an agent so long as the person is not legal counsel.

One or two of these cases probably wouldn't be an issue, but Peters has gone public and launched DontSettleWithHonda.org. The site includes instructions on how to opt-out and links to small claims information.

If enough consumers follow her lead, Honda may have to defend hundreds of cases across the country. Counsel will need to negotiate individual settlements or train agents on how to present a case. Where lawyers are allowed, they'll need to show up.

While this is a very clever way to overcome the Honda hybrid settlement, it has the potential to be an utter nightmare.

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