HONDA CIVIC OWNER LOSES SMALL CLAIMS APPEAL
In a recent article I took the position that class action settlements should not include vehicles. I took this position for several reasons - the unknowing waiver of substantial rights and money damages; lack of counsel to explain complicated settlement notices; etc. My position arose out of a proposed class action settlement that dealt with the Honda Civic Hybrid and poor fuel mileage. In the settlement, members of the class would receive nominal monetary compensation or a nominal incentive to purchase another Honda vehicle. Honda would receive releases of claims for all members of class who did not opt-out of the settlement.
A California woman did opt out of the settlement and sued Honda in small claims court based upon her Honda Civic Hybrid’s poor fuel mileage. She won a judgment aginst Honda just shy of $10,000.00. This judgement proved my point that class action lawsuit settlements related to vehicles should not be allowed.
Honda then appealed the small claims court ruling. (In California, only a defendant in small claims court may appeal a small claims court decision.) Honda won the appeal. (In California a small claims court appeal is heard by one judge in a new hearing. Attorneys are allowed to represent parties in a small claims appeal, but not in the original small claims case.)
This appeal decision in no way changes my position regarding the unwiseness of vehicle class action settlements. The fact that a small claims appeals court ruled in Honda’s favor does not mean that this Honda Civic Hybrid owner or other Honda Civic Hybrid owners have meritless claims. In fact, the original small claims judge was of the opinion that the plaintiff proved her case and was entitled to damages.
The fact is, the American legal system should not tolerate any legal procedure in which American citizens may unknowingly give up substantial legal rights and large potential monetary damages in exchange for nominal settlement amounts.