Woman sues Honda in unlikely place: small claims

TORRANCE, Calif. — A woman who expected her Civic Hybrid to be her dream car wants Honda to pay for not delivering the 50 mpg it promised.

But rather than joining other owners in a class-action lawsuit, Heather Peters is going solo against the automaker in small-claims court, an unusual move that could offer a bigger payout. And if successful, it could open the door to a flood of similar lawsuits.

A trial is set for Tuesday in Torrance, where American Honda Motor Co. has its West Coast headquarters.

Peters, a former lawyer, says that as her vehicle’s battery deteriorated, it got only 30 mpg.

When Honda ignored her complaints, she filed legal papers seeking reimbursement for her trouble and the extra money she spent on gas. The suit could cost the company up to $10,000.

If other Civic owners follow her lead, she estimates Honda could be forced to pay as much as $2 billion in damages. No high-priced lawyers are involved, and the process is streamlined.

"I would not be surprised if she won," said Richard Cupp Jr., who teaches product-liability law at Pepperdine University. "The judge will have a lot of discretion, and the evidentiary standards are relaxed in small-claims court."

Small claims courts generally handle private disputes that do not involve large amounts of money. In many states, that means small debts, quarrels between tenants and landlords and contract disagreements.

A victory for Peters could encourage others to take the same simplified route, he said.

"There’s an old saying among lawyers," Cupp said. "If you want real justice, go to small-claims court."

But he questioned whether her move would start a groundswell of similar cases. He suggested that few people would want to spend the time and energy that Peters has put into her suit when the potential payoff is as little as a few thousand dollars.

Peters opted out of a series of class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of Honda hybrid owners when she saw a proposed settlement would give plaintiffs no more than $200 cash and a rebate of $500 or $1,000 to purchase a new Honda.

The settlement would give trial lawyers $8.5 million, Peters said.

"I was shocked," she said. "I wrote to Honda and said I would take $7,500, which was then the limit on small claims in California. It is going up to $10,000 in 2012."

Typical limits in other states range from $2,500 to $15,000.

She said she also offered to trade her hybrid for a comparable car with a manual transmission, the only thing she trusted at that point.

"I wrote the letter and I said, ‘If you don’t respond, I will file a suit in small-claims court.’ I gave them my phone number," she said. "They never called."

She said she also sent emails to top executives at Honda but got no response. She also launched a website, DontSettleWithHonda.org, urging others to take their complaints to small-claims court.

Aaron Jacoby, a Los Angeles attorney who heads the automotive industry group at the Arent Fox law firm, said Peters’ strategy, while intriguing, is unlikely to change the course of class-action litigation.

"In the class-action, the potential claimants don’t have to do anything," Jacoby said. "It’s designed to be an efficient way for a court to handle multiple claims of the same type."

He also questioned her criticism of lawyers’ fees. Jacoby said class-action lawyers do extensive work that involves many clients and sometimes spans years. And they are not in it just for money.

"They’re representing the underdog, and they believe they are performing a public duty," he said. "Many of these people could not get lawyers to represent them individually."

The judge hearing Peters’ case was not expected to make an immediate ruling Tuesday, but small claims matters are usually decided much faster than those in civil courts, which often take years to resolve major cases.

American Honda’s offices were closed for the holidays, and no one could be reached for comment. Peters said the company has tried five times to delay the trial but was rebuffed.

The upside of Peters’ unusual move, she says, is that litigants are not allowed to have lawyers argue in small-claims court in California. That means any award would not be diluted by attorney’s fees. Honda would have to appoint a non-lawyer employee to argue its side in court.

"If I prevail and get $10,000, they have 200,000 of these cars out there," she said.

A judge in San Diego County is due to rule in March on whether to approve Honda’s latest class-action settlement offer. Members of the class have until Feb. 11 to accept or decline the deal.

ad-high_impact_4
News
President Trump talks about how to pronounce "Nevada"
At the United States Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning on May 25, 2018, President Donald Trump discusses how to pronounce "Nevada."
Amazon's Alexa Recorded and Shared a Couple’s Conversation
Amazon's Alexa Recorded and Shared a Couple’s Conversation News station KIRO 7 reported a Portland couple’s conversation was recorded and sent to one of their contacts via their Amazon Echo device. They found out when the husband’s employee called him saying, via KIRO 7 The voice-activated assistant is used by more than 60 million U.S. consumers, according to Bloomberg. But what will happen if these devices become digital spies within our homes? Daniel Kahn Gillmor, Daniel Kahn Gillmor, to Bloomberg Daniel Kahn Gillmor, to Bloomberg Amazon Inc. issued a statement that the incident in Portland is an “extremely rare occurrence,” and the company did not state whether it was a bug or due to hacking.
Neighbor talks about 15-year-old alleged shooter
Nolan Turner, 15, who lives across the street from the 15-year-old who allegedly shot and killed his father and shot his mother talks about growing up with the teen. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas teen kills dad, wounds mom before she shoots him
A 15-year-old boy shot his father to death and wounded his mother in a west valley home Thursday morning before being wounded when she got a gun and returned fire, according to Las Vegas police. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers were called just after 10:45 a.m. Thursday on the 9900 block of Barrier Reef Drive, near West Sahara Avenue and South Hualapai Way. In a briefing near the scene, police said the teenager shot his dad in the head, killing him, then shot his mom, who got another gun and returned fire. They said the boy jumped a wall and ran away, but was arrested about a quarter-mile away. Both the teen and his mom were hospitalized and are expected to survive, police said. Police did not immediately identify the family members but said the man was in his early 50s and the woman was in her late 40s. K.M. Cannon/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Native Troy Brown Jr. Preparing for NBA
Former Centennial High School player Troy Brown Jr., now 18 and one of the most accomplished high school basketball players in the history of Las Vegas, is back in his hometown preparing to play in the NBA. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Closing arguments at David Copperfield civil trial
Attorneys for British tourist Gavin Cox and MGM Resorts make their closing arguments in the David Copperfield civil trial at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Surgeon Performs Successful Rare Pancreas Surgery
Las Vegas resident Mary Duda underwent a pancreatoduodenectomy, or Whipple procedure, for her pancreatic cancer. While the grandmother of 19 recovered, her doctors say she's one of the lucky ones. Pancreatic surgery can be risky and has a high morbidity rate. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Las Vegas police explorer sentenced to 25 years to life in prison
Former Las Vegas police explorer Joshua Honea sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for sexual assault of a minor, but was allowed to remain free on bail pending appeal. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights Fans Line Up to Grab Their Conference Champions Gear
Golden Knights fans lined up at City National Arena Monday to snap up Conference Champions gear and other memorabilia the day after the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup Conference Finals. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas-Review Journal)
Las Vegas shooting survivor has surprise reunion
Oct. 1 mass shooting survivors Taylor Stovall and Parker Gabel meet for the first time since Gabel helped the injured Stovall to an ambulance the night of the shooting. Stovall, then 17, was shot in the arm. They met Friday at the Tropicana.
Hawaii volcano presser
Talmadge Magno of Hawaii Civil Defense gives an update on the Kilauea volcano
Same-Sex Weddings on the Rise in Las Vegas
Allie and Tara Shima finally tied the knot. They've been together for five years and have both been married before. This time, they wanted something simple, quick and cheap, but it still had to feel special. The couple chose Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Courtyard Homeless Resource Center begins building in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Ward 3 Councilman Bob Coffin kicked off the demolition of buildings where the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center will be built. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Father of fallen Marine to throw out first pitch
Rich Perez, father of Rich Perez Jr. who died while serving in the Marines in Iraq, talks about throwing out the first pitch at the Las Vegas 51s baseball game on Memorial Day. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Yanny" or "Laurel" hearing test has gone viral
'Yanny' or 'Laurel?' This Hearing Test Has Gone Viral This hearing test has gone viral on social media with some hearing "Yanny" while others swear hearing "Laurel." The voice is actually saying "Laurel," but the pitch was changed, causing some to hear "Yanny."
LVMPD Briefs on Year's Sixth Officer-Involved Shooting
Las Vegas police have identified the officer who shot a shovel-wielding woman on Saturday as 23-year-old Ondre Wills.
Police release body camera footage of shovel-wielding woman
Las Vegas police identified the woman they said threatened neighbors with a skillet Saturday night. Officer Ondre Wills, 23, shot at Sommer Richards, 34, multiple times on Big Sur Drive, near Nellis Boulevard and Desert Inn Road. Police responded to the area after receiving reports that the woman was armed with a shovel. Police said the woman chased neighbors and a security guard. Wills got between Richards and the others and repeatedly told her to drop the shovel. The woman instead turned and moved toward a person who was standing nearby before the officer fired shots. Police said she bit another officer as he attempted to render aid. Richards remains in serious but stable condition.
College of Southern Nevada Graduates 2017-18 Class
The College of Southern Nevada's graduation ceremony was held at the Thomas & Mack Center Monday. The 2017-18 class was the institution's largest in history. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro looking for suspect in bank robbery.
On Jan. 22, a man robbed a bank in the 8700 block of West Sahara Avenue.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee at opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, at opening ceremony of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, speaks about the violence in Gaza. (Debra J. Saunders/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Supreme Court strikes down law banning sports betting outside Nevada
The Supreme Court has overturned a federal ban on sports gambling. States other than Nevada will be allowed to provide bookmaking and betting at casinos and race tracks. Justice Samuel Alito said Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, “each State is free to act on its own.” The vote was 6-3. One research firm estimates that 32 states will likely offer sports betting within five years.
Westcare Clinic Crucial to Las Vegan's Addiction Recovery
Christian Hunt, 21, was sent to Westcare in September after he ended up on drugs and in the hospital. If it weren't for the nonprofit's Community Triage Center, Hunt said he would still be using drugs. Instead, he's been sober for six months, and stopped using methamphetamines seven months ago. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Foundation Provides Full Rides for Clark County Students
Somewhere along the banks of the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky, a group of students from Sin City are pursuing a higher education. Feature on the 38 Clark County students that the Rogers Foundation has given full rides to for Kentucky Wesleyan College. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Flames engulf house in Henderson
Clark County firefighters battled a house fire early Friday morning in Henderson. The house, located near Volunteer Boulevard and Executive Airport Drive, was fully engulfed in flames about 2 a.m. Shifting winds sent massive plumes of smoke across the southern Las Vegas Valley sky. As of 3 a.m. , the cause of the fire was not known and no injuries were reported.
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time
Harvey Weinstein’s Estranged Wife Speaks Out for First Time Georgina Chapman was profiled for 'Vogue’s' June issue, speaking on her estranged husband for the first time since he was accused of sexual assault in October. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Chapman, who has two children with Weinstein, also said she has been seeing a therapist and that has helped her move forward. Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Georgina Chapman, to Vogue Read the full profile on Chapman in Vogue’s June issue or online at Vogue.com.
Bark-Andre Furry the dog is a Vegas Golden Knights hockey fan
The furriest fan of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights is growing into a social media sensation. Bark-Andre Furry the Jack Russell terrier has thousands of followers on Twitter and Instagram. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect Sought In Robbery Attempt
Attorney Gloria Allred on case against Benjamin Sparks
Attorney Gloria Allred is representing the victim in a "sex slave" case against GOP political consultant Benjamin Sparks.
2018 Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards winners
Some winners of the 2018 Las Vegas Review-Journal High School Journalism Awards receive their awards.
Weather Balloon Collects Key Data
Meteorologist Chelsea Kryston discusses the Las Vegas National Weather Service's balloon carrying a radiosonde that collects temperature, humidity and pressure readings.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like