Congratualations should go out ot Heather Peters, a former attorney, who sued American Honda Motor Company and won. She proved that her Honda Civic Hybrid did not achieve enarly the gas mileage that Honda advertised. The judge awarded her over $9,800. This was almost the maximum available in small claims court.
Instead of being one in a great number of class action members, Peters decided to take matters into her own hands and sue Honda in small claims court. This means that she could not be represented by a lawyer and that her award was limited to a maximum of ten thousand dollars.
The upside to small claims court is that is is cheap and quick. In most counties in California, a small claims case can be filed for about $75 and it will be heard in usually a few short months. There are no attorney fees to be paid and statisically, about 75% of small claims plaintiffs get awards in their favor. This means that if you sue someone in small claims court you are likely to win something.
Small claims cases can be appealed by the defendant only. In Peters' case, Honda says they will appeal. Also note that lawyers are allowed on small claims appeals.
Filing a lawsuit in superior court costs five times more money and opens the door to what may be years of litigation and waiting for a trial date. In Los Angeles County, if I file a limited civil action, I may not see a trial date for over five years. Additionally, the costs of litigation can be huge. With discovery and depositions, court appearances, settlement conferences and or alternate dispute resolution, the costs can rapidly get into the 5 and 6 figures. If expert witnesses are needed, the costs can often double. Litigants can be burried in paperwork by corporate defendants which may have armies of lawyers on their payrolls.
As a Honda owner, I have been thinking about sueing Honda and Michelin tire company regarding the tires that came standard on my Honda. They appear to wear out too quickly, they are very expensive to buy and pretty much can only be serviced by Dealerships who have the expensive equipment needed to work on the tires. Peters' case really motivates me to get my facts together and file a lawsuit in small claims court.
If you have questions about this or any other consumer law matter please contact me:
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