Class action lawsuit filed against Fiat Chrysler over ‘defective’ gear shifters following death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin

by John Chapman

Fiat Chrysler is facing a $5 million class action lawsuit following the recent death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin over a “dangerously defective” gear shifter used in Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models. The lawsuit alleges that the defective shifter and the lack of other safety features was a contributing factor in Yelchin’s death, as well as hundreds of other incidents involving vehicles equipped with the same gear shift.

Yelchin died on June 19, 2016 when he was struck by his Jeep Grand Cherokee after parking it outside his home. Early reports from a Los Angeles Police Department investigation into the deadly accident have suggested that Yelchin may have mistakenly left the vehicle in neutral due to the confusing design of the gear shift on his Grand Cherokee, causing the vehicle to roll down a hill and ping him against a concrete-reinforced mailbox on his driveway.

Yelchin’s 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of more than 811,000 vehicles sold by Fiat Chrysler that were recently recalled due to gear shift problems linked to accidents and other incidents. According to the complaint filed against Fiat Chrysler, the “ZF Shifter” used on the 2012-14 Dodge Charger, the 2012-14 Chrysler 300, and the 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee is designed to rest in a central position after a driver shifts gears, which could lead to confusion about whether the car is in park or neutral. At the time of the recall, Fiat Chrysler stated that “drivers erroneously concluding that their vehicle transmission is in the park position may be struck by the vehicle and injured” due to the gear shift issue.

Prior to the recall announcement, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration was investigating reports of injuries and other incidents linked to the Fiat Chrysler gear shift issue. The agency launched the investigation following dozens of injury reports and many other complaints linked to the Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler gear shifts from vehicle owners. NHTSA said that it had received at least eight reports of accidents involving vehicle rollaway in addition to the 41 injury reports disclosed by Fiat Chrysler at the time of the recall.

The class action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler is seeking to force the automaker to replace the recalled shifters or to install a safety override to automatically move the vehicles into park when the driver’s door is open and the food brake has been released. The lawsuit is seeking in excess of $5 million in damages in connection with the recalled Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler models.

Class Action and Vehicle Crashworthiness Lawsuits Filed by HO&P

A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit brought by a group of people who have suffered similar harm from similar actions of a particular defendant. The lawsuit is filed is by one or sometimes more “class representatives” who ask the court for permission to represent the interests of the entire class, i.e., all those other people who were treated and injured in much the same way.

Class action lawsuits are subject to their rules and often expensive to pursue. There is a great difference to corporations between paying damages to a few victims and paying damages to every victim. Not surprisingly, corporations fight hard to defend themselves against class actions.

Consumers who have purchased a vehicle with serious safety problems may wish to speak with an attorney about filing a lawsuit against the manufacturers of these devices. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the trial experience, knowledge, and legal expertise to pursue a product liability claims against any of the major auto manufacturers or other companies that manufactured or sold products that were defective.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we believe that when automakers and other companies fail to properly ensure that their products meet minimum quality standards, they should be held accountable for the injuries, economic losses, and other damages caused by their products. We believe that all consumers deserve access to qualified legal counsel to represent their interests and ensure that their rights our protected.

For a free legal consultation about your case and to find out more about filing a lawsuit, contact the law firm of Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions about your case to get started.