A judge has granted Calfornia more time to evaluate the settlement of a class-action lawsuit between automaker Honda and those who bought its popular Civic Hybrid.
The state became more interested in the case after Honda owner Heather Peters won $9,867 in small claims court last month. The State Attorney General's Office will now have until February 29 to investigate whether the settlement is fair.
Civic Hybrid owners in the suit would get up to $200 each and a $1,000 coupon towards their next Honda vehicle. Attorney Jeremy Robinson said, "If the Attorney General finds that it is unfair and the judge agrees, Honda and the plaintiffs would have to go back and find another settlement."
Peters opted-out of the suit dissatisfied with the settlement. She claimed that the car's battery failed and the carmakers remedy left the her vehicle getting only 29 miles per gallon, much less than the advertised 50 miles per gallon.
Peters encouraged others to do the same. "At least in California, you can go to small claims court and they're not allowed to have an attorney. It's very much like Judge Judy," she said. Peters is an attorney. Her website, www.dontsettlewithonda.org, gives specific instructions to Civic Hybrid owners on how to sue Honda. She also sells a CD for $15 which includes evidence and other documents she used to make her case.
Other lawyers said this route man not be for everyone. "Many people just don't have the interest or it's not in their make up to go to small claims themselves and present a case themselves," said Attroney Vincent Bartolotta, Jr. "There's no guarantee that they're going to get the same result and get a $10 thousand reward in this case," he added.
Honda has 30 days to appeal the small claims decision earlier this month. If they appeal, the case will be heard in Superior Court with attorneys present for both sides.
One of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, Alan Mansfield, insisted that the settlement is fair with 45,000 people having submitted claims. "This settlement provides compensation without the possibility of appeal," he said.
Mansfield complained that numerous people involved in the class-action lawsuit have called desiring an award similar to that of Peters.