It's no secret that the MPG estimates found on Monroney stickers is a bit optimistic, but at least one Civic owner thinks there is more to it than that.
New car buyers everywhere are often left disappointed when they find out that the suggested fuel economy that was plastered on the window of their car was off by at least few miles per gallon, but at least one of those consumers is out to do something about it.
Heather Peters, a disgruntled owner of a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid that she says gets about 20 miles per gallon less than she was led to believe by Honda, has decided to get creative and take on massive Honda Motors...in Small Claims Court. As the Los Angeles Times points out, Peters' plan isn't quite as crazy as it seems, as it cleverly avoids what would have likely been her biggest obstacle: Honda's army of lawyers.
For those of you not well-versed in California Small Claims Court law, the way it operates is by pitting both parties against one another with a very important distinction - parties must represent themselves and cannot use an attorney. As a result, Peters will be able to deal with Honda directly, bypassing what would have certainly been an endless army of attorneys had she attempted to take them to traditional court.
The flip-side, of course, is that Peters is limited to $10,000 in compensation if she wins (that's the "small" part of Small Claims Court), but that amount is all she needs. Furthermore, Peters hopes that she can get others to do the same thing across the country, effectively causing death by a thousand cuts, so to speak.
In fact, Peters launched a web site (DontSettleWithHonda.org) that provides unique guidelines state-by-state to make the process of taking Honda to Small Claims Court less daunting. Peters hopes that she can encourage as many owners as possible out of the 200,000 or so which have the same vehicle to refuse the currently standing offer that resulted from a class-action lawsuit against the automaker. The existing settlement saw $8.5 million go to trial lawyers, while car owners were to get as little as $100 and rebate coupons towards the purchase of a new Honda product.
Some are calling Peters' plan game-changing, not only for the automotive industry but for all large corporations in the U.S. "This could create a lot of problems in the industry," said Aaron Jacoby, a defense attorney at the Arent Fox law firm in Los Angeles who also heads the automotive industry group.
Not all states share the distinction of not allowing representation as in California, but many do. Regardless, the efforts by Peters could prove troublesome and costly to automakers should it succeed, forcing a new level of responsibility that consumers will certainly welcome.
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