SAN DIEGO — A judge on Tuesday granted California and four other states more time to consider objecting to a class-action settlement between Honda Motor Co. and car owners over inflated fuel-efficiency claims about the automaker’s hybrid vehicles.

The states’ sudden interest in the proposed settlement came shortly after Honda owner Heather Peters won $9,867 in small claims court – much more than the couple hundred dollars cash that the settlement is offering.

Attorneys general in California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington asked last week – only two days before the deadline – for more time to consider the settlement with about 200,000 Honda owners.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor granted the states an extension until Feb. 29, but only after questioning why they missed the deadline when dozens of opponents didn’t. The states were notified of the settlement in October.

Albert Shelden, a California deputy attorney general, acknowledged to reporters that Peters’ victory this month in a Los Angeles court caught the attention of authorities.

“From a number of different sources, other questions have been raised,” he said. “Everything figures in.”

California has not decided whether to enter the fray and, if it did, on what grounds it would object, Shelden said. The amount of the offer would be among the questions it considers.

Peters, who attended the hearing, told reporters the states’ objections might carry enormous weight.

Peters, who has been working full-time to challenge the settlement, was denied an opportunity to address the judge.

She told Taylor that her license to practice law was recently reactivated, but the judge said he didn’t have any evidence to support her claim.

Peters opted out of the class-action lawsuit so she could try to claim a larger damage award for the failure of her 2006 Honda Civic to deliver the 50 mpg that was promised.

 


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