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Hybrid vehicles: Judge approves Honda settlement

Hybrid vehicles settlement between Honda and owners of Honda hybrid vehicles gets judge's OK, despite a $9,900 small claims award for inflated mileage claims for a Honda hybrid vehicle. 

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The judge approved more than $8 million in plaintiff attorneys fees in his 43-page ruling.

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Peters' win in small claims court was a unique end run around the class action process, which typically give small payments to consumers. In small claims court, there are no attorneys' fees, cases are decided quickly, and individual payments are far greater.

Nicholas Chimicles, one of the plaintiff attorneys, expressed concern that consumers were being falsely led to believe the small claims court was "nirvana." Honda said it has won five of the six small claims over the hybrids since January, with Peters dealing its only defeat.

Chimicles, who billed $675 to $750 an hour for his work on the case, told the judge that the new converts to the small claims venue were "akin to following the Pied Piper over the precipice."

More than 1,700 Honda owners opted out of the settlement. Some believed consumers should be paid more. Others complained the attorney fees were too high.

Still, the judge noted, many objectors were sympathetic to the automaker and satisfied with the car's performance. Clancy Hughes, a physician in Homer, Alaska, said the complaints "seem spurious."

American Honda Motor Co., the Japanese automaker's U.S. subsidiary, could have backed out because more than 1,500 owners opted out, but it embraced the agreement.

"Honda is pleased with the court's approval of this settlement as a fair resolution for our customers that demonstrates our desire to preserve our good relationship with Civic Hybrid owners who chose to participate in this class action," a company statement read.

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