Small Claims Flash Mob

December 29, 2011

“Small Claims Flash Mob.”  That’s what the LA Times is calling an enterprising Californian’s efforts to dissuade class members from settling their class claims with Honda.  A 2007 class action complaint alleges that Honda falsely advertised the fuel economy of Civic Hybrids (5:07-CV-00287). The class action settlement notice (pdf) offers rebates for as little as $100 towards the purchase of a new car.  Instead, Heather Peters is urging other Honda owners to take their individual claims to small claims courts, especially in California where the legislature recently raised the jurisdictional amount from $7,500 to $10,00.  See CA Civ Pro 116.221, amended by Senate bill 221.

The LA Times notes that,

If she’s successful in getting others to follow her example, Peters could inspire a whole new litigation strategy in the auto industry and other businesses. Working together but filing lawsuits independently, consumers could force companies to go mano a mano with individual plaintiffs in far-flung courtrooms nationwide.

Interestingly, there might be precedent for the flash mob strategy in California. Even if the cases were to be consolidated, the small claims court might maintain jurisdiction (thus, no attorneys allowed pursuant to CA Civ Pro 116.530.) California Jurisprudence notes that the small claims division was established to provide a forum to resolve  “minor” civil disputes.  The word “minor”

… refers to the financial value of the claim to the individual plaintiff. The jurisdictional amount limitations apply to each plaintiff’s individual claim, and the fact that on consolidation of the claims of several individual plaintiffs the aggregate amount is greater than the limit is immaterial. Thus, the small claims court had jurisdiction to hear 183 consolidated claims against a city alleging that city airport noise constituted a continuing nuisance causing damages to each claimant in the maximum jurisdictional amount for each claimant, even though the claims raised complex issues.

CAJUR COURTS § 227, discussing City and County of San Francisco v. Small Claims Court, 141 Cal. App. 3d 470, 190 Cal. Rptr. 340 (1st Dist. 1983).

RESEARCH REFERENCES

For related filings, try: (fuel /3 economy ) & TI(honda) in CA-FILING-ALL

Recommending a simple search for news and alerts.  Try, honda and fuel-economy and small-claims in ALLNEWS.

Note that the settlement notice cites 5 related cases:

  • True, et al. v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Case No. 5:07-cv-287-VAP-OP (C.D. Cal.)
  • Lockabey, et al. v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Case No. 37-2010-887755-CU-BT-CTL (San Diego Cty. Super Ct.);
  • Gibble v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Case No. 2:10-cv-6148-VAP-OP (C.D. Cal.)
  • Stouch, et al., v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Case No. 2:10-cv-6236-VAP-OP (C.D. Cal.)
  • Thieben v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Case No. BC 441424 (Los Angeles Cty. Super. Ct.).