Fuel-efficiency class-action settlement at risk
February 15, 2012
by The Canadian Press
SAN DIEGO: A US judge has granted California and four other states more time to consider objecting a class-action settlement between Honda Motor Co. and car owners over inflated fuel-efficiency claims about the automaker’s hybrid vehicles.
The proposed class-action settlement with Honda’s US subsidiary, American Honda Motor Co., would give aggrieved owners $100 to $200 each and a $1,000 credit toward the purchase of a new car. Legal fees in the class action would give trial lawyers $8 million.
The states’ sudden interest in the proposed settlement came shortly after Honda owner Heather Peters won $9,867 in small claims court in January—much more than the couple of hundred dollars cash the settlement is offering.
Peters opted out of a class-action lawsuit so she could try to claim a higher payment for the failure of her Civic to deliver the promised 21.26 kilometres per litre (kpl) when she bought it.
Attorneys generals in California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington asked last week—just two days before the deadline—for more time to consider the settlement with about 200,000 Honda owners.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor has granted the states an extension until Feb. 29 after questioning why they missed the deadline when dozens of opponents didn’t.
The states were notified of the settlement in October.
Albert Shelden, a California deputy attorney general, acknowledged that Peters’ victory this month in a Los Angeles court caught the attention of authorities.
“From a number of different sources, other questions have been raised,” he said. “Everything figures in.”
California has not decided whether to enter the fray and, if it did, on what grounds it would object, Shelden said. The amount of the offer would be among the questions it has yet to answer.
Peters, who attended the hearing, said the states’ objections might carry enormous weight.
“It resonates with the judges,” she said.
Alan Mansfield, an attorney for the class-action plaintiffs, said the significance was unclear.
“For me to presume what is important to a judge is not for me to say,” he said.
The judge granted the extension only after attorneys for Honda and the class-action plaintiffs said they had no problem with it. He gave less time than the states wanted and insisted on sticking to a March 16 hearing to decide whether to accept the settlement.