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Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Honda

October 17, 1997

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A federal judge ruled that Honda Motor Co. dealers can band together to sue the automaker for claims that the company conspired to send cars to those willing to pay bribes while punishing dealers who refused to take part in the scheme.

Chief U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sided with Honda dealers Wednesday who argued that the best way to pursue the largest commercial bribery case in American history was by creating a class-action lawsuit.

Honda lawyers had asked the judge to deny the class action suit. They instead wanted to force one test case to court that would be used to determine the outcome of dozens of lawsuits filed around the nation against Honda.

Instead, Motz decided to certify a ``limited″ class of Honda dealers. Those dealers would take a single case to trial that would decide whether the automaker, its executives and its lawyers took part in a national racketeering scheme and are liable for the kickbacks.

If the jury decides that Honda is liable, separate trials would be held to determine the extent of the damages the dealers suffered.

Nearly 800 dealers could wind up becoming part of the class-action suit.

Honda is facing more than 50 civil suits filed by dealers around the nation, including several in the Baltimore-Washington region.

Dealers who didn’t pay bribes claim that the cars they needed to stay competitive were diverted to dealers willing to part with cash, jewelry and vacation trips for Honda executives and sales managers.

The lawsuits filed around the country and consolidated in Baltimore allege that Honda executives at the highest levels, including those in Japan, looked the other way while their employees took the bribes during the 1970s and 1980s.

Honda denies that its top executives knew about the schemes.

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