“Comply to my three conditions, or I’ll sue you.”
That was Judge Dudley Gray II’s paraphrasing of a letter sent by Heather Peters to Honda’s customer service department on November 18 of last year. The letter spoke louder than any evidence previously submitted in the three-day hearing, an appeal by Honda against a $9,867 settlement she won in small claims court in January.
As explained in court Friday, Honda received the letter on November 22. Honda that stated Peters’ “demands” (the court’s word—not ours) and wasn’t able to respond to the letter until after Thanksgiving. By that point, Peters had begun preparing for her small claims suit that spiraled into her winning her January hearing. Honda appealed the decision, starting a new case that began last week with full access to Honda’s technical experts and lawyers.
“I think it’s reasonable for them to turn it over to their legal department,” Judge Gray concluded when Peters asked a customer relations manager why she was never contacted.
The Friday hearing debated damages, the purportedly diminished resale value of Peters’ Civic, and the fuel economy numbers a car like hers could achieve. Peters has said that she is averaging 29 mpg in a car rated almost twice that. But it came up Peters wouldn’t let her local Honda dealership test her car for fuel economy because Honda said it didn’t want her to post footage of it on her site before the appeals court date.
In the hearing, Peters claimed the Honda’s battery in its Integrated Motor Assist hybrid system would not hold a charge, dropping her fuel economy well below its factory-rated 50 mpg. Technical expert Neil Schmidt countered in testimony that, according to records from her Honda dealership, Peters’ car had never had service problems and that her tires showed excessive wear on their outside shoulders, a sign of aggressive driving. Peters said she was not a lead-foot driver, but Honda attorney Roy Brisbois introduced the fact that her last four cars were two BMW Z3 roadsters, a BMW X5, and a Mazda RX-8—none of which are exactly vehicles for the unsporting driver.
Though a verdict was not handed down today, odds are high Judge Gray will have his decision early next week. We’ll keep you posted with a full report on Peters’ Honda Civic Hybrid hearing on Monday.