L.A. Woman Wins Suit against Honda – Car Pro News

Heather Peters’ win in a Los Angeles small claims court against Honda Motor Co. has all the makings of a David vs. Goliath battle, but some experts are skeptical it will spur angry consumers nationwide to do what she did: abandon complaint lines, class-action suits and lawyers, and just go it alone through the legal system.
Peters won a $9,867 judgment against the automaker after she complained that her 2006 hybrid only got 30 miles to the gallon, not the 50 she said Honda led her to expect.
To file the suit, she opted out of a class action that included some 200,000 consumers and that is proposing a settlement that would amount to a fraction of her judgment amount.
“The wonderful news here is consumers can fight back. The headline is: ‘Consumers win this round,'” says John Mattes, a San Diego-based consumer attorney who runs his own practice. “She opened the door for consumers all over the country. The consumer army marching into small claims court is a very powerful force.”
Mattes says he’d love to see a message sent by consumers to companies — and also to class-action lawyers who sometimes collect more than the class of people they’re representing.
Not every consumer can sue every company they have a beef with. In the first place, many consumer contracts on everything from credit cards to cellular phone contracts to car rental agencies have clauses that require consumers to go to arbitration instead of filing lawsuits.
As much as some would like to see Peters’ maneuver become the foundation of a grassroots effort to upset the often consumer unfriendly class-action settlements, those who deal with these cases are skeptical it will lead to a groundswell.
Some reasons they cite is Peters’ legal training (which most consumers don’t have), the amount of time it can take to wage a court battle, the ability for the defense to appeal, and a general discomfort with going to court.
Peters, who had let her attorney’s license lapse, nevertheless is both trained in and has practiced law.
Furthermore, Peters just won the first round in a fight that could get big, expensive, ugly and protracted.
Appeals take time and move to a higher court, where hiring a lawyer might be necessary.
“The thing to remember, however, is that Honda is already promising to appeal and it may take years for this issue to be finally resolved,” says James Pizzirusso, a partner in Hausfeld LLP’s Washington, D.C., office.


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