The owner of a Honda Civic Hybrid will have to wait at least until next week to hear whether she wins up to $10,000 in a lawsuit against Honda.

Heather Peters returned to small-claims court in Torrance on Wednesday for a second hearing on whether Honda deceived her on the car's actual fuel mileage.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan first heard testimony from plaintiff Peters and a representative of Honda on Jan. 3.

Carnahan held Wednesday's hearing to follow up on whether the case could go forward in light of a statute of limitations as well as to hear further testimony.

Peters, 46, a Los Angeles resident who formerly lived in Redondo Beach, said her Civic Hybrid never achieved the 50 miles per gallon advertised by Honda, instead seeing about 40 mpg. After a vehicle software upgrade from Honda, that figure dropped to no more than 30 mpg.

She is asking for $10,000 - the maximum judgment allowed in small-claims court - from Torrance-based American Honda Motor Co. Inc., the Japanese carmaker's U.S. headquarters.

Wednesday's hearing could have much larger implications for Honda if Peters wins. Other Civic Hybrid owners may follow her example and sue the car company directly instead of opting to join a pending class-action lawsuit based on the same complaints.

Peters estimated that if she prevails, Honda eventually could be liable for up to $2 billion in judgments should the owners of the other Civic Hybrids sold each win $10,000 in small-claims court.


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On Tuesday, Honda served Peters with a stack of papers summarizing testimonials from drivers happy with their Civic Hybrids.

In court, Carnahan noted that he received that summary as well as an 8-inch stack of the actual letters from Honda.

Neil Schmidt, a technical specialist for American Honda, represented the company at the hearing.

He noted that the 50 mpg cited on the car's sticker comes from testing by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"We've been sued for telling the truth," Schmidt said. "Honda didn't lie in its advertising."

Peters countered that Honda knew that figure was not realistic and should have been more honest about actual mileage.

"I'm not suing over the sticker," Peters said. "I'm saying they lied to me in the sale."

Carnahan said he would "shoot for next week" to mail his ruling to the two parties.

Peters said she hoped for a ruling before Feb. 11, when members of the class-action suit can object to or opt out of the proposed settlement with Honda.

Peters has waged a campaign to persuade fellow Civic Hybrid owners to opt out of the proposed settlement, which would give each owner $100 to $200 and a credit of $500 to $1,000 on the purchase of a new Honda.

She has done this through her website DontSettleWithHonda.org, as well as a Twitter feed and YouTube page.

"However he decides it, I'm happy I did it," Peters said outside court. "It's brought to light a lot of background stuff that people should know."

She vowed to publish her evidence online to help others who may want to sue Honda in small-claims court.

"I'm the trailblazer here and everyone else can follow in my footsteps." she said.

muhammed.el-hasan@dailybreeze.com

Follow Muhammed El-Hasan on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dailybreezebiz