Honda Wins Reversal Of Small-Claims Judgment Over Hybrid Mileage

Remember that story of the Honda owner who won nearly $10,000 in small claims court after she opted out of the $100-200 settlement from the class-action lawsuit alleging that the car maker made misleading claims about the gas mileage of its Civic hybrid vehicles? Well, her glory didn’t last long. A judge in California has overturned that judgment.

The small claims court had originally sided with the plaintiff, saying that Honda’s statements of 50 mpg for the Civic hybrid were misleading to people who said they were only getting around 30 mpg out of their vehicles.

However, yesterday a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Honda’s appeal, stating that the car company was following federal fuel economy regulations with the estimates posted on vehicles and in ads.

The AP reports that the judge said Honda’s advertising slogans do not translate into “specific promises of anything”:

In addition, the judge said EPA miles per gallon ratings are for comparison among vehicles and don’t account for various factors such as the condition of the car or the length of the trip, that can affect mileage.

“Despite these many variables, most of the owners of the subject vehicle achieve fuel economy very close to the EPA estimate,” wrote the judge in his ruling.

The plaintiff in the small claims case is also the creator of DontSettleWithHonda.org, which contains details of her suit (but which, as of the time we’re posting this, have mention of the reversal).

Following her small claims victory, the AP reports that around 1,700 other people followed suit and filed their own grievances in small claims court. Yesterday’s ruling does not have a direct effect on any of those suits, though we can’t imagine it helps those plaintiffs.

UPDATE: Honda has issued the following statement to Consumerist:

Honda is pleased with the Court’s decision which affirms that Honda was truthful in its advertising of the fuel economy potential of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. We are thankful for the support we received from the many satisfied Civic Hybrid owners who expressed their support throughout the legal process.

We are never satisfied when a customer is anything less than satisfied with one of our products, and the company does not relish the necessity to defend the truth in opposition to any of our customers. However, it is important to note that, since January of this year, seventeen similar small claims cases involving Civic Hybrid owners have been heard in courts across the country and Honda has now prevailed in sixteen, based on facts and the law.

Honda welcomes any customer who has questions about fuel economy to contact the company directly through our dealer network or our Automobile Customer Service office.

Honda also takes issue with the AP’s claim that 1,700 small claims court complaints have been filed, saying that while approximately 1,700 members of the related class-action settlement did elect to opt out of that settlement, very few have thus far pursued separate legal action The car maker says to date it has received notice of only 36 small claims complaints.