Heather Peters won her Honda small claims lawsuit on Wednesday, earning a $9,867 judgment from a California state judge.
Peters brought the small claims suit after opting out of a proposed settlement in a Honda class action. The company was accused of overstating the fuel economy associated with its hybrid vehicles.
To settle those claims, the car manufacturer proposed a $200 settlement. It would also provide covered hybrid owners with a $1,000 nontransferable credit towards a new car.
Peters got the better deal, and actually received almost all of what she asked for -- the $10,000 small claims maximum under state law.
Her case was somewhat solid, too. In a 26-page order -- a rare action for a small claims case -- the judge wrote "Honda was aware ... there were problems with [the car] living up to its advertised mileage."
It would be nice for Heather Peters if the Honda small claims lawsuit ends here. She could take her money and move on with her life. But Honda has the option to appeal -- something the Los Angeles Times reports it is considering.
In most states, defendants can appeal a small claims case to a higher court. In California, a small claims appeal is heard by a different Superior Court judge. Different rules apply during an appeal, which means parties may bring in expensive attorneys.
The possibility of an appeal is thus something you should seriously consider when filing a small claims case against a corporation or someone with money. The stakes are small, but an appeal can be used to bully you into settling for a smaller amount.
But don't worry about Heather Peters. The former attorney appears fit to handle a Honda small claims appeal.
- Woman wins small-claims suit over Honda hybrid mpg (Associated Press)
- Small-Claims Court (FindLaw)
- When to Opt-Out of Class Action and Go to Small Claims (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life)