January 12, 2009 / 11:26 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Calif. court OKs false claims suit over Honda Civic

(Adds no comment from Honda spokesman)

LOS ANGELES, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A California appeals court on Monday cleared the way for the owner of a hybrid Honda Civic to sue the car’s maker for false advertising in a lawsuit that claims Honda has had so many complaints about the hybrid it has told U.S. regulators it wants to revise the mileage rating.

The state appeals court in San Diego remanded the false advertising claims back to the trial court, acknowledging that while Federal law does protect carmarkers from some lawsuits over disclosure of fuel economy standards, it does not preempt them from being sued over everything they say about fuel efficiency.

The lawsuit is not the first to challenge the Civic Hybrid’s mileage claims.

A Honda (7267.T) representative said the company does not comment on ongoing litigation.

The original lawsuit was brought in 2005 by Gaetano Paduano against American Honda Motor Co Inc over claims that his 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid achieved less than half the advertised city mileage of 47 miles per gallon (MPG) and highway MPG of 48.

A brochure advertising the car stated that it could be driven like a conventional car and still achieve the advertised mileage, a statement Paduano said was contradicted by Honda dealership and customer services personnel, the opinion said.

A Honda customer service representative told Paduano that the company had received “a high number of complaints about customers not receiving the posted and advertised mileage,” the opinion said.

The representative also told Paduano that both Honda and Toyota have approached the EPA to change the mileage rating to be more in line with the mileage drivers were achieving in their hybrid vehicles, the opinion said.

Paduano “presented evidence that directly disputes Honda’s claim that a driver need not do anything special in order to achieve gas mileage close to the EPA estimate,” the Fourth District Court of Appeal wrote in its 2-1 opinion.

Paduano’s lawsuit skirts the federal preemption rule because it centers on Honda’s claim that the car can be driven like a conventional vehicle and still get the advertised mileage, the court said.

A trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Honda on all claims in 2006. (Reporting by Gina Keating; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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