Hyundai Sued by The Illiterate

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Hyundai Motors is the target of a lawsuit – possibly, a class action lawsuit – because one of its customers can’t read.

Louis Bird of Sacramento, CA bought a 2011 Elantra chiefly, he says, because of the advertised “40 MPG” claimed by Hyundai (and the EPA, which does the actual testing). Of course, as anyone who can read knows, that “40 MPG” touted by Hyundai (and EPA) is the car’s highway mileage. Most cars (except for hybrid cars) typically get their best mileage at steady-state cruising speeds, in top gear, on the highway – because it takes less effort to keep a car moving once it’s moving than it does to get it moving.

A car’s city mileage is usually lower, because it takes more energy to get a car moving from a standstill – which happens a lot in stop and go city-type traffic. So automakers – not just Hyundai, either – tend to emphasize the highway figure in their advertisements. However, they don’t hide the city number. More on that in a moment, though.

Bird says he was misled into believing that his ’11 Elantra would get 40 MPG – average. Not just on the highway. His suit claims that “TV advertisements for the ‘40 Mile Per Gallon Hyundai Elantra’ reflected only highway mileage, not city or combined highway/city mileage.” He thus claims he had no idea that his Elantra’s real-world average miles-per-gallon would end up being considerably less than 40 MPG. (Here’s a news story about this mess.)

But this is hard to believe, for one obvious reason: That hard-to-miss piece sheet of paper that’s glued – by law – to the window of every new car prior to sale. You know – we all know – the one with bold-faced type in large font that says – in the case of the Elantra – 29 city, 40 highway?

How could Bird have possibly missed this? Or is it simply that he cannot read? And either way, how is this Hyundai’s fault?

One would assume Bird didn’t just buy the car without any prior knowledge, just because he saw a commercial and glommed on to “40 MPG.” Surely, he read up on the car – its features and capabilities – at least a little bit. After all, it’s not a Snickers bar. It’s $18k or so on the table – at interest, for the next five years. Most people would give it a few minutes of thought first… .

And again, even if it were the case that he bought the car without taking any time to look into it, based solely on an ad that referenced the car’s 40 MPG capability on the highway – and perhaps, mentioned that fact in small print or even not at all – there’s that big fat window sticker – called the Monroney – named after Senator Mike Monroney – which cannot legally be removed prior to sale except by the final purchaser of the car – for the very specific reason that consumers are to be provided with certain facts about said car, prior to purchase, so that they can make an informed decision about whether to buy the car.

Every new car sold in the U.S. since 1958 has had to have the Monroney label in place – so one assumes the ’11 Elantra purchased by Bird had one, too. That means either Bird didn’t read it, or chose not read it – or could not read it.

Again, one struggles to understand how any of these options involves cupidity – or culpability – on Hyundai’s part.

It’s also hard to believe that anyone who didn’t go down with the Titanic doesn’t know that whatever the MPG claims made by an automaker – or the EPA – your mileage will vary.

That, too, is right there on the Monroney, incidentally. Literally. They tell you, in plain English: “Your actual mileage will vary.”

That’s a direct quote.

So, what gives? Is Bird claiming the Elantra he bought did not have a Monroney? Nope. Is he claiming a Hyundai salesman erased the “city” number? Or replaced 29 with 40? Or told him the car would average 40 MPG? Nope, nothing like that. The lawsuit comes down to: Hyundai – supposedly – emphasized the 40 MPG highway figure while de-emphasizing the 29 MPG city figure.

Does that amount to misrepresentation – let alone fraud – given the abundance of information about the car’s actual mileage parameters, posted literally right in front of Bird’s face when he was looking at the car on the dealer’s lot? If it does, then it’s open season, baby.

Think of all the 4×4 SUV commercials that show heroic feats of off-roading. The shots of high-performance sports cars drifting, tail out, through an apex. The absence of people with pot bellies or cellulite – everyone beautiful, young, sexy.

What if I miss – or can’t read – the small print caveats about closed course, professional driver, do not attempt.  What if I am still old, bald and fat after I buy that Porsche? If I can’t duplicate the image on TV, is the automaker is misleading me and guilty of fraud?

Bird may be illiterate – or just a guy looking to cash in.

Either way, it’s pretty sad.

Not so much him, by the way. Rather, the courts which let him in.

Throw it in the Woods?


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  1. Hyundai should be grateful that this moron Bird doesn’t live in Mississippi. That state has a notorious reputation for awarding civil judgments for obscene amounts of money based for the most frivolous of cases. I don’t know how many of these judgments are ultimately overturned on appeal, but the costs to the defendants are massive. It’s a wonder anyone does business in Mississippi at all.

    All of the above said, Kalifornia is almost as crazy as Mississippi. I would not be the least bit surprised if a jury not only found in favor of Bird, but slapped Hyundai with some form of punitive damages as well.

    • lib,

      All juries in all states of uS are stupid.

      True story, drunk thug breaks into a closed swimming pool business in Canada. Scales a trestle deck no ladders. dives head first into empty pool. Breaks neck, paralyzed from the neck down. Tries to sue owner of Canadian business. Canadian courts say f.o.

      Law office which represents drunk thug has branch in New York, company that makes the pool is in New York. New York courts allow suit based on fact the deck didn’t have a “No Diving” placard.

      The trail? Jury was half white half black. The drunk thug, last to testify, admitted under cross he was the one responsible for his injuries.

      The jury? The whites didn’t want to award thug a penny. The blacks viewed the company not as someone that has to pay stockholders dividends but one with a deep pocket and wanted to award a substantial judgment.

      The verdict, the whites compromised and agreed to a 22k award for the drunk thug. REMEMBER, Drunk Thug was paralyzed from the neck down due to diving head first into the empty pool. Sympathy judgment by jury.

      The result, the judge incensed that the jury awarded 22k reduced the award to 2k. Now this a violation of the thugs own legal rules. Only an appellate court can reduce jury awards. So automatic grounds for appeal.

      Who won? Well the lawyers of course. The pool maker had already spilled over a mil in defense. They settled for 650k, it was cheaper than doing another trial.

      The moral of this story? Not one state in the us has good juries.

      • Hi David,

        Yep, I’m familiar with that case (and others like it). I agree, too, with your opinion about juries.

        Maybe 25 or 30 years ago, juries were better – at least, in the sense that most people were not maggots or sympathetic to maggotry. Maggotry was thus contained. But today maggotry is ubiquitous. The least common denominator has taken over and this is reflected in the composition of the typical jury.

        I’d flee to Mexico before ever placing my life in the hands of one.

    • An Otto Engine is most efficient when the fuel/air mixture completes its burn at 15 degrees ATDC. Optimum burn time is .003 second. The burn time of different fuels will vary. Perhaps that is the problem with Ethanol.

      Is the ECU “smart” enough to handle a considerable variance in burn time? I really don’t know.

      • My understanding in re ethanol is that it’s less energy dense per unit volume than gasoline. Put another way: You have to burn more of it to get an equivalent amount of energy out of it, etc. This is why mileage goes down when burning ethanol(and ethanol-laced gas) vs. pure gasoline.

        Some race cars burn alcohol – but of course, mileage is a non-issue for them.

        • Exactly so Eric. Rather than pure hydrocarbon, ethanol is already “one down” on the oxidation chain–that (-OH) group sticking off the end. The yeasts have already partially “burned” (oxidized) it.

          The whole damn foolish experiment…really just another subsidy to Monsatan and other Big Agra…started with the idea of “oxygenates”. That is, put in fuel that’s already partially oxidized, to fool the engine into running leaner–and reducing unburned HC output.

          Trouble is, very soon after the introduction of oxygenated fuels came closed-loop engine computers using a lambda sensor to tune the mixture. They sense the lean condition and just inject more fuel.

          The last I read, it takes about 1.3 units of petroleum energy to produce 1.0 units of ethanol energy. It actually uses more energy than it produces.

          What a frikkin’ scam–like everything else godverment does.

  2. The automotive cartel makes some sense. You get a better transportation product than even a whole neighborhood of mechanics and engineers could produce.
    I see no value in the lawyer court and regulatory cartels however. One sole proprietor such as yourself could offer something better to willing customers.
    If Hyundai is anything like kia a lot of its revenue comes from making military vehicles.
    The predatory military capitalism of american paper shuffling and consumer idiocy has made us a pariah. These suits are an act of war and the usa is backing itself into a friendless corner where the only way out is autarky and military command of essential goods much like the soviets used to be.

  3. They guy is a douche and should be forced to pay all court costs plus the time he is wasting.

    I actually had an early Hyundai 1990? excel hatchback. Just a work car I drove it for about five years. It got great gas mileage and the only thing I ever did with it was change the oil and fix the breaks. I put a couple hundred thousand miles on that car. Sunroof and cassette deck. I think I paid around $2,500 with next to no miles. What a little trooper, great in the snow as well. I could turn it around in my garage so if I got snowed in over night I didn’t have to plow out my driveway. I would just rev it up and go like hell out of the garage. Just about 350 feet to the road and I could just about float that whole way on top of the snow. I beat the living crap out of that car and never did kill it. My wife rolled it, I took it down every two track in the county. In fact I changed the oil but only rarely. When it was on it’s last leg I still sold it for what I had into it (after the insurance payoff) and my friends said they saw it on the road for years afterwords.

    • Agreed!

      And, this is great stuff, Brad:

      “I could turn it around in my garage so if I got snowed in over night I didn’t have to plow out my driveway. I would just rev it up and go like hell out of the garage. Just about 350 feet to the road and I could just about float that whole way on top of the snow.”

      • Dear Eric, The sad part is that they can’t make a car like that anymore. No possible way would the godvernment allow it. If I remember right the list price for them new was right at five grand and like I said it just wouldn’t die. It wasn’t a 40mpg car but thirty plus was easy and heck back then gas wasn’t really all that expensive anyway.

        Even adjusted for inflation that would be a new car for less than ten grand. I know for a fact there would still be a market for it.

  4. Wait a second… You mean the Porsche I ordered *ISN’T* going to melt off 50 lbs and put hair back on my head?

    Crap. I better call my lawyer.

    • ‘fraid so Mike, but I’ll bet a Porsche can help get you laid.


      Elections and law schools aren’t going to fix America. If the People want to get serious about fixing our Country they are going to have to break the combined power of Juris Doctors, Career Office Holders,and the Corporations they serve.

      The People themselves must take lawful control of the genuine Law of the Land and with the cooperation of FULLY INFORMED GRAND JURIES beat down the JDs, Career Office Holders, and the Corporations they so greedily serve. (I don’t care if they beat them down to something that resembles day-old road kill on a busy road. I’d like very much to piss on it. If a foreign enemy had tried to do what those unprincipled low-life sons-of-bitches have done to America that just might be the case.)


  5. The power of money invades every cell of the justice system and destroys its promise.
    — Gerry Spence

    Lawyers are everywhere. They abound in our hamlets and swarm in our cities. They overcrowd our legislatures, flourish as the heads of state and, like dead fish too long in the water, rise to the top of our great corporations.
    — [Ibid]

  6. What do you mean “Sad”? This sperm sample probably can’t afford the payments or doesn’t like his Hyundai and this is a good, legal (and possibly profitable) way of getting out from something he is probably upside down in. If any money IS extorted from Hyundai and if the Judge has even 1% of decency, it should be applied to forcing Louis Bird, his family, his friends and anyone who calls him by his first name to be sterilized. Sad? You should have said, `Bullshit´.

      • JDs can read and they are supposedly educated.

        The ABA was founded on August 21, 1878, in Saratoga Springs, New York, by 100 lawyers from 21 states. The legal profession as we know it today barely existed at that time. Lawyers were generally sole practitioners who trained under a system of apprenticeship.

        There was no national code of ethics; there was no national organization to serve as a forum for discussion of the increasingly intricate issues involved in legal practice.

        The original ABA constitution, which is still substantially the charter of the Association, defined the purpose of the ABA as being for “the advancement of the science of jurisprudence, the promotion of the administration of justice and a uniformity of legislation throughout the country….”

        Today, the stated mission of the American Bar Association is “to be the national representative of the legal profession, serving the public and the profession by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the law.”

        The eleven goals of the Association are:

        * Promote improvement in the American system of justice
        * Promote meaningful access to legal representation and the American
        system of justice for all persons regardless of their economic or
        social condition
        * Provide ongoing leadership in improving the law to serve the
        changing needs of society
        * Increase public understanding of and respect for the law, the legal
        process and the role of the legal profession
        * Achieve the highest standards of professionalism, competence, and
        ethical conduct
        * Serve as the national representative of the legal profession
        * Provide benefits, programs and services which promote professional
        growth and enhance the quality of life of the members
        * Advance the rule of law in the world
        * Promote full and equal participation in the legal profession by
        minorities and women
        * Preserve and enhance the ideals of the legal profession as a common
        calling and its dedication to public service
        * Preserve the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary
        as fundamental to a free society.

        The ABA’s influence today stems from both the number and diversity of its membership. ABA members represent approximately half of all lawyers in the United States. In addition, the Law Student Division has more than 33,000 members.

        ABA membership is open to lawyers admitted to practice and in good standing before the bar of any state or territory of the United States.

        Eligible to join the ABA as associates are: non-lawyer judges, federal court executives, bar association executives, law school educators, criminal justice professionals, members of administrative agencies, industrial organization economists, law office administrators, legal assistants, law librarians and members of Association-approved law school boards of visitors. Members of the legal profession in other nations who have not been admitted to the practice of law in the United States can become international associates.

        About 50,000 lawyers joined the Association in the last year!

        Brought to you by – The ‘Lectric Law Library
        The Net’s Finest Legal Resource for Legal Pros & Laypeople Alike.

        • At one time in the United States, engineers, doctors, and lawyers were paid nearly the same.

          You wonder why we are where we are today? There’s your answer.

  7. Does this mean I can sue the BLS, since they report a CPI of just over 2%, when my personal CPI is more like 11%? How about suing the EPA for requiring “misleading” fuel economy tests? Can I sue the FDA when one of their “approved” drugs I was taking gets recalled? Can I sue my local building inspector when his “approved” electrical installation is proven dangerouos and starts a fire?

    What again does the government’s “stamp of approval” actually buy me?

    This is a bit off topic, since even the government’s own tests and required bold faced type states it plain as day – but still. This is the argument I give the statists that argue that without all these three letter agengies “protecting” us, all the evil companies would be ripping us off at best and killing us at worst.

    If Mr. Bird (any relation to Bird-brain????) wins, I would love to say I’d be amazed. However, nothing is shocking nowadays. I dearly hope Hyundai countersues for court costs and legal fees if they win.

  8. This seems similar to the Heather Peters (no relation to Eric Peters) story.

    This should be thrown out of court. (Unless there are other relevant facts not presented at this time.) Although I thought the same thing the last time and Heather won.


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