With 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid owner Heather Peters winning her case concerning the faulty operation of her car, a lot happened. Her $9,867 winnings in small claims court sent shockwaves to the attorneys general of each of the 50 states, with several requesting an extension for the class action suit that promised between $100 to $200 per owner, a warranty extension, and a voucher toward the purchase of a new Honda or Acura. The lawyers representing the class are set to receive $8 million.
After Peters’ victory at the beginning of February, she immediately reapplied for her long-lapsed bar certification to be able to practice law in California again. The cynics among us wondered all along if this was part of her plan to carry her newfound notoriety into a reignited, better-paying law career. So far, all signs point to “Yes.”
But that’s not to say she hasn’t kept with her original mission: To get Honda to cover more extensive damages for each of the 200,000 potentially affected 2003-2008 Honda Civic Hybrid owners. With a petition distributed to each attorney general with more than 1300 signatures each, California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington attorney generals lobbied to extend their states’ opt-out deadlines for the class action. San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor granted their request to Feb. 29, largely on the back of the Peters’ ruling.
Honda has largely stayed mum until the automaker has its day in appeals court with Peters. However Honda issued an official statement that said, “We continue to believe that the class action settlement pertaining to the fuel economy of some early-model Civic Hybrid vehicles represents a very good resolution for our customers. We look forward to a discussion with the State Attorneys General concerning the benefits that our customers will receive from the settlement.”
Peters’ case shows that, if proven correctly in appeals court, Honda reprogrammed her car to preserve her battery while sacrificing fuel economy. Without her knowledge of the consequences, her Civic’s fuel economy dipped to about 29 mpg. It was rated at approximately 51 mpg, according to old fuel mileage standards. She won her small claims hearing largely because, without telling her otherwise, the discrepancy was large enough to be considered misrepresentation of the advertised product, for which she paid nearly $30,500, including dealer markup.
The notion suggests that because her car is truly faulty beyond repair, as she claims, she deserves her remuneration. As we’ve heard from various sources, however, her car has not been scientifically diagnosed in an EPA-certified driving cycle to see how great the discrepancy between actual gas mileage figures is with EPA testing procedures and actual causes by Honda itself. She has taken it to her local dealership multiple times for service, however.
With an impending class action settlement coming, lawmakers and owners are stalling as long as they can to see how Heather Peters’ case stands up in appeals court in San Diego. If her case holds up, we could be seeing a lot more collateral damage for Honda stemming from both her case and the class action suit for years to come.