Nova Scotia

N.S. man takes Honda to small claims court over recall buyback

A man from rural Nova Scotia has taken his complaint about a recalled Honda CR-V to court, suing the giant carmaker, a dealership and a numbered Nova Scotia company in small claims court.

'I didn't like the fact that they absolutely refused to repair my car'

David Puxley didn't like Honda's buyback offer on his CR-V so he's taking the company to small claims court. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

A man from rural Nova Scotia has taken his complaint about a recalled Honda CR-V to court, suing the giant carmaker, a Bridgewater, N.S., dealership and a numbered Nova Scotia company in small claims court.

At a court hearing in Bridgewater this week, the case was adjourned until September as the adjudicator considers Honda's request to keep all documents filed with the court under seal after a CBC request to see them.

David Puxley, a 74-year-old retired air traffic controller who lives near Mahone Bay, was one of almost 84,000 Canadians to receive a Jan. 17 recall notice from Honda for 2007-11 CR-Vs sold or currently registered in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

David Puxley thinks Honda is not making a fair buyback offer for his 2007 CR-V EXL. (David Puxley)

The recall notice on Transport Canada's website says the rear frame could rust on certain vehicles and, in extreme cases, it could result in a rear-trailing arm separating from the vehicle. 

When Puxley took his vehicle to the dealership for inspection he was told it was not safe to drive. He said his 2007 CR-V EX-L is paid for and is in otherwise in good condition with just 216,000 kilometres.

Honda made him an initial offer to buy back his vehicle, but he declined.

"I didn't like the offer," said Puxley, who will not disclose the amount because he fears legal action from Honda if he does. "I didn't like the fact that they absolutely refused to repair my car."

Puxley said he was told the offer was not negotiable. But he thinks Honda could have repaired his vehicle, although it likely would have cost them more than buying it back. 

"They could have done things that made me feel they were treating me fairly and they never did at every opportunity," Puxley said.

He said Honda told him it was offering fair market value plus a bonus but Puxley said that means nothing to him. 

"The car is much more valuable to me than any measure that's based on fair market value," he said, adding he expected to drive it for another three years.

"If they say the car has to come off the road because of a design flaw then I think they should make it more easy for me to replace the car," he said.

In his notice of claim, Puxley said he wants his car "back on the road, repaired, roadworthy, and safe, without any cost to me. I want to be made whole." Alternatively, he wants Honda to pay his claim.

Renee Landry points to the lot at Saint John Honda dealership where her CR-V was being stored in April. She tried to negotiate a better buyback price than Honda offered. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

Some other owners of these vehicles, like Renee Landry in Saint John, have also complained that Honda refused to repair their vehicle and instead "pressured" them to sell it back to the company for less than they believe it's worth.

After agreement on price, Honda adds conditions

Puxley and Honda had previously reached an agreement on the amount the automaker would pay Puxley for his car. The amount was not disclosed nor was the amount he was seeking in the case.

However, after that agreement was reached, Honda placed conditions on the payment. They were conditions Puxley would not accept.

The court disclosed that those conditions included matters relating to title, the amount to be paid and a confidentiality clause.

Honda's lawyer, Jillian D'Alessio, asked the court Wednesday to dismiss the case because of the settlement. She maintained there was an agreement even though Puxley did not agree to the additional terms.

The matter was adjourned until September but not before CBC asked the court to allow it access to the documents that have been filed in the case.

The adjudicator said he did not immediately know how to respond and asked whether Honda would be agreeable to the request.

Honda trying to keep court documents secret

The company's lawyer then said she would like all documents, including those marked "Confidential"  sealed. The adjudicator gave her until Friday to file a motion outlining why that should be done.

Dalhousie law professor Wayne MacKay said the starting assumption is that courts are open and documents filed in cases are public. 

"The burden is clearly on [Honda's lawyer] to establish there should be some kind of exception to that and she has to make a motion why there should be an exception, and justify it," MacKay said. 

He said the courts are "pretty reluctant" to do that unless it's an extreme case where it can be shown that damage or injury of a fairly significant kind would result if the documents were released.

The Automobile Protection Association, a consumer advocacy group, has a poll for the owners of these vehicles on its website.

APA president George Iny said the results show Honda's buyback offers are "all over the map."

APA survey shows few repairs

He said APA has received more than 150 reports from consumers whose vehicles were covered by the recall. 

"Only 2-3 responses actually obtained an appointment for a repair when parts come in," he said. "The rest received rustproofing or a buyback."

He said vehicles with low mileage and higher trim levels, like EX and  EX-L, are treated favourably.

Honda's lawyer declined an interview request, saying she did not have authorization from her client.

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