Jeep Owners Sue for Flaw That May Have Killed Star Trek Actor

Suit claims Fiat Chrysler should have done more to remedy gear shift issue
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2016 7:44 AM CDT
Jeep Owners Sue for Flaw That May Have Killed Star Trek Actor
This photo provided by FCA shows the interior of a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland. US auto safety investigators have determined electronic gear shifters (like the one shown here) in some newer Fiat Chrysler vehicles are so confusing that drivers have exited the vehicles while they're in gear.   (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles via AP)

First came last year's hefty $105 million fine for recall lapses affecting more than 11 million vehicles. Then came the death Sunday of 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin, whose recalled Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled and pinned him, per Jalopnik. Now Jeep Grand Cherokee owners have lobbed a class-action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler, alleging the company is at fault for not adequately remedying a flawed gear shifter, the Wall Street Journal reports. The suit was filed Thursday by a Seattle law firm, which claims Fiat Chrysler "fraudulently concealed and failed to remedy a gear shifter design defect affecting 811,000 vehicles and linked to driverless rollaway incidents," per CNNMoney, which notes affected vehicles include 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, as well as 2012-2014 Chrysler 300s and Dodge Chargers.

"There was no sense of urgency on Chrysler's part ... given the potential for death or injury," the director for the Center for Auto Safety tells the New York Times, which adds 212 crashes and 41 injuries possibly tied to the rollaway issue were reported by mid-April; federal regulators started looking into the reported issue in August. The mechanism being looked at in Yelchin's death is an electronic shifter that makes it hard to tell when the car is actually in "park," and the suit says the company should have put in place, as other manufacturers with this type of shifter have, an override function that puts the car in park when a vehicle door is open. CNN also notes that even though Fiat Chrysler filed a recall notice in April, actual owners hadn't yet received their official notices. Jalopnik reports that's due to start happening Friday, as a software fix is now available. (More lawsuit stories.)

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