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Attorneys general win more time to ponder Honda Civic settlement

February 15, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times

Five states including California won more time to decide whether they will object to a proposed class-action settlement between Honda and owners of its Civic hybrid who contend they were misled about the car's fuel economy.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor said Tuesday that he would give the five state attorneys general until Feb. 29 to object to the settlement, which pays class-action attorneys $8.5 million and gives Civic owners $100 to $200 and rebate coupons for another Honda purchase.

The court is expected to decide whether to accept the settlement March 16. The attorneys who negotiated the settlement have until March 9 to respond to any objection the states might file.

Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington joined California in asking for more time, which they said was needed to obtain more information and to discuss whether they would file an objection. The ruling extends last Saturday's deadline for filing objections.

The Honda Civic issue rose to prominence this month when a Los Angeles County court commissioner ruled that American Honda Motor Co. negligently misled Civic owner Heather Peters when it said the hybrid could achieve as much as 50 miles per gallon.

Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan awarded Peters $9,867.19 in damages, just under the maximum of $10,000 allowed in Small Claims Court that the Los Angeles resident sought.

Honda said it is preparing to appeal the ruling, which it called "a radical and unprecedented departure from California and federal law."

Peters said she filed the Small Claims Court lawsuit after opting out of the proposed class-action settlement because it paid so little to Civic owners. She has encouraged others to also object to the settlement.

An earlier proposed settlement was rejected last year in federal court in Riverside by Judge Virginia Phillips, who agreed with 26 attorneys general and multiple consumer groups that argued the deal did not pay Civic owners enough.

Honda sold about 200,000 of the hybrids over a six-year period, and because of resales as many as 500,000 people are eligible to file claims against the automaker.

The automaker said Tuesday, "We continue to believe that the class action settlement pertaining to the fuel economy of some early-model Civic Hybrid vehicles represents a very good resolution for our customers. We look forward to a discussion with the state attorneys general concerning the benefits that our customers will receive from the settlement."

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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