2009 Honda Civic Hybrid front three-quarter view

Heather Peters really, really doesn't want anyone to settle with Honda. Peters is the woman who went her own way earlier this year, suing Honda in small claims court in Torrance, CA instead of joining a class-action lawsuit against the automaker over allegations that the company promoted misleading fuel economy numbers for the Civic Hybrid, model years 2003 to 2009. She was recently awarded $9,867 in damages, significantly more than the $100-$200 the 200,000 Civic Hybrid owners involved in the class action suit are expected to net (their lawyers stand to make $8.5 million). Because of that perceived unfairness, Peters is going in front of Superior Judge Timothy Taylor in San Diego today to ask that the class-action settlement be cancelled.

According to the Associated Press, Peters is using her small claims winnings – which Honda said it will appeal – to prove that the settlement is unfair to the Civic Hybrid owners that had thus far agreed to the deal. Around 1,700 owners decided not to take part in the settlement and there is reason to believe Taylor is at least slightly sympathetic to their cause. He recently extended the deadline for state attorneys general – who called the original settlement deal unfair – to respond to Peters' winnings.

The original Civic Hybrid class action case arose out of the claims of John True, who sued Honda in 2007 because, he said, the automaker misled him about the car's fuel economy. When we interviewed him back in 2007, who knew the turns this story would take?

*Update: It appears that extension mentioned above is not indicative of any leanings either way. In fact, in the judge's tentative rulings, he wrote:

[Peters'] reply papers are remarkable for their silence on the lack of success enjoyed by two other small claims plaintiffs. This leaves the court to conclude that Class Counsel are correct in asserting that Peters' demand for access to the fruits of discovery is actually a thinly disguised effort to use the discovered material to assist Peters in ―begin[ning] a cottage industry of representing consumers or selling her $15 CD to them.

The "two other" plaintiffs the judge mentions there are, as noted by Honda's Chris Martin, other Honda Civic Hybrid small claims cases that have taken place this year. There have been five total since January, and Honda has prevailed in all of them except the Peters case. A final ruling is still forthcoming.
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