- - Wednesday, May 9, 2012

CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles County judge overturned a nearly $10,000 small-claims judgment against American Honda Motor Co. that was won by a car owner who said the automaker misrepresented the gas mileage of her hybrid Civic, according to a ruling released Wednesday.

Superior Court Judge Dudley W. Gray II ruled Tuesday on Honda’s appeal of a small-claims court commissioner’s award of $9,867 to Civic owner Heather Peters.

Ms. Peters opted out of a class-action settlement giving some 200,000 owners between $100 and $200 each, plus a rebate if they buy a new Honda, electing instead to sue the automaker on her own.

Judge Gray’s ruling found, among other things, that while Ms. Peters had standing to bring the case in state court, federal regulations govern fuel economy ratings posted on vehicles and advertising claims related to them. The ruling also said that most owners of that type of car achieve fuel economy close to federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

KENTUCKY

Appeals court grants seal to Maker’s Mark

LOUISVILLE — A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but an appeals court says a liquor bottle with a red dripping wax seal by any name other than Maker’s Mark would be illegal.

Noting that “all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon,” an opinion released Wednesday by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says that only the Kentucky-made bourbon can carry the distinctive bottle topper.

The decision comes in an appeal brought by London-based Diageo North America and Casa Cuervo of Mexico, which used a dripping red wax seal on special bottles of its Reserva tequila. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II in 2010 granted Maker’s Mark’s request for an injunction stopping other liquor companies from using the seal.

In a 19-page opinion affirming that decision, Judge Boyce F. Martin waxed poetic about the history of Kentucky’s most famous distilled spirit. Judge Martin, who noted at oral arguments in December that “Maker’s Mark is not cheap,” displayed a detailed knowledge of the history and manufacture of bourbon, writing that “corn-based mash and aging in charred new oak barrels impart a distinct mellow flavor and caramel color.”

“Distillers compete intensely on flavor, but also through branding and marketing; the history of bourbon, in particular, illustrates why strong branding and differentiation is important in the distilled spirits market,” Judge Martin wrote.

NORTH CAROLINA

4 people arrested at bank demonstration

CHARLOTTE — Four people were arrested Wednesday as they tried to force their way into the annual Bank of America shareholders’ meeting in Charlotte, and police used a new ordinance to declare the gathering an extraordinary event subject to special restrictions.

Hundreds of people gathered on the streets as dozens of police officers worked to contain the protest.

Maj. Jeff Estes of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the four were charged with crossing a police line, a misdemeanor. He also said the protest was peaceful.

Johnny Rosa of Framingham, Mass., was one of those arrested. Mr. Rosa said before he was taken into custody that his home had been foreclosed and he wanted to tell shareholders the foreclosure was wrong because he wanted to make payments.

Charlotte police used a new ordinance allowing the city to declare public gatherings as extraordinary events. That allowed authorities to designate areas where people aren’t allowed to carry backpacks, magic markers and other items.

The measures were adopted in advance of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Maj. Estes says police didn’t confiscate any of those materials at the demonstration.

JAPAN

Nation to provide $12.5B to nuclear-plant operator

TOKYO — The government approved on Wednesday a 1 trillion yen, or $12.5 billion, public bailout for the operator of Japan’s tsunami-devastated nuclear-power plant and put it under temporary state control.

In exchange, Tokyo Electric Power Co. has appointed new management and pledged to cut costs while raising utility rates on power from its other plants as it works to stabilize the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant and compensate tens of thousands of victims of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

“I hope Tokyo Electric will work to win back public trust,” Economy and Trade Minister Yukio Edano said. He stressed the need for Tepco to become more transparent amid criticism that it did not release complete and timely information about the disaster.

Tepco has also come under fire for being unprepared for the massive earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan’s northeastern coastline last year. The cooling systems at the plant failed, causing meltdowns of at least three reactor cores and the release of large amounts of radiation.

The plan calls for 3.3 trillion yen, or $41.3 billion, of cost cuts over 10 years by Tepco.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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