During its first go around with Heather Peters small claims court over her 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid‘s dismal gas mileage, Honda skipped out on supplying subpoenaed information. But after the case was extended, Honda overcompensated for its initial lapse in judgment.
Neil Schmidt, the man sent by Honda had four inch-thick stacks delivered to Commissioner Doug Carnahan under seal. He also had a half-inch-thick summary of new information Honda didn’t release during the first hearing.
All of it was dropped off Tuesday afternoon for the Wednesday hearing, but Carnahan dismissed most of the information, which was mostly testimony from happy Civic Hybrid owners. “Anything I look at, both sides are entitled to see,” Carnahan said. The summary on the other hand was allowed, and contained Honda’s Environmental Protection Agency documentation and some advertising literature.
Schmidt tried explaining that Peters may not have followed the proper service procedures for her car, receiving whispers of advice from David Peim, corporate counsel for Honda. That is, until Commissioner Carnahan reminded him that lawyers weren’t allowed in small claims court.
Then Darin Johnson, Honda’s EPA certification engineer stepped forward, providing information that all vehicles are tested for fuel economy in-house with just a 10-percent random sample being subjected to independent testing from the EPA, and said that automakers had no option but to adhere to the federal testing procedures.
But Peters followed with an arsenal of evidence refuting Johnson’s claims. Citing documentation from 1981, 1983, and 2008, Peters noted that fuel economy stickers and advertising could be changed to reflect a lower number if deemed necessary. She said Honda had kept the numbers artificially inflated to deceive customers at the height of the “green revolution.”
“The codification we’ve all seen in 2008 allowed manufacturers to change numbers if they didn’t stand,” she said, noting that such policies were implemented as early as 1983.
She continued: “[Honda] had the flexibility [to change the listed number], and I think that’s indicative of Honda’s continued concealment of documents from consumers.”
Commissioner Carnahan did not hand down a ruling, but one is expected within days. Peters is hopeful that it will be released before Feb. 11, the last day Honda Civic Hybrid owners have to opt out of a national class action lawsuit that would net them $100 to $200 and a voucher toward the purchase of a new Honda vehicle.
Peters, a former lawyer, is hopeful for an outcome in her favor and realizes that if she wins, Honda’s legal team will likely appeal it to a venue where its legal team can speak.
“They will absolutely appeal with lawyers,” she said. “And I’m ready!”