Jeep Automaker Faces Lawsuit Days After Anton Yelchin’s Death

By Chika Dunu, Epoch Times
June 24, 2016 Updated: June 24, 2016

A class action lawsuit was filed in a Los Angeles federal court against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) on June 23 for having faulty gear shifters in its automobiles, according to court documents.

Deryl Wall, Justine Andollo, and Danielle and Joby Hackett—Fiat Chrysler car owners—claim there was an “unreasonable delay in fixing the defect.” 

As noted in the lawsuit, every car includes a basic safety feature known as the gear shifter. The gear shifter causes the car to remain stationary until the operator decides otherwise. This is a rule FCA allegedly broke.

“In its 2012-14 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s, and 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees, FCA installed gear shifters, designed and manufactured by ZF Friedrichshaffen AG (“ZF”), that departed from the long established ‘PRND’ gear selector in favor of an electronic mechanism that never actually “shifts” into any gear, but rather always moves back to a central location after being engaged (the “ZF Shifter”),” reads the document.

“The ZF Shifter design is dangerously defective because there is no tactile or position feedback to the operator as to whether the car has actually been placed into the safe-to-exit ‘park’ gear and there is no safety override that automatically puts the car in “park” if the driver’s door is open and pressure is taken off the foot brake.”

According to the lawsuit, over 300 accidents have been reported, causing dozens of serious injuries as a result of the defective device. The plaintiffs also cite actor Anton Yelchin’s death.

The 27-year-old was accidentally killed by his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee when it rolled down his driveway at his California home and pinned him against his brick mailbox on June 19. The Los Angeles Police Department is currently investigating whether the gearshift design played a role in Yelchin’s death. 

The plaintiffs are seeking punitive damages for fraud, attorney fees, and a temporary replacement car for all owners. They are also asking for an order that would temporarily and permanently prevent FCA from “continuing the deceptive, fraudulent, and unfair business practices.”