Four additional nationwide class-action lawsuits have been filed against Fiat Chrysler following the death of actor Anton Yelchin. The lawsuits allege that the electronic gear shift used in certain Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep vehicles has resulted in rollaway accidents due to a design defect. Class action lawsuit attorneys representing owners of affected vehicles are claiming that Fiat Chrysler fraudulently concealed the defect and failed to fix the defect, which is now linked to 266 accidents, at least 68 injuries, and 308 incidents of property damage, according to Forbes magazine.
These lawsuits come on the heels of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin’s death this past June. Yelchin was killed when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled down his driveway and crushed him against his brick mailbox. Although the accident is still under investigation and the death has not been officially connected to the gear shifter issue, it is thought that Yelchin stepped out in front of his vehicle after mistakenly believing that the Jeep had been placed in park. Yelchin’s parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The electronic gear shifter used in the 2012-14 Dodge Charger, the 2012-14 Chrysler 300, and the 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee utilizes a different mechanism than a traditional gear shifter. Unlike a traditional gear shifter, which remains in place once the gear has been selected, the e-shifter returns to the central position. This has led to confusion among drivers who leave the engine running mistakenly believing that the transmission is in park when it actually is in neutral or reverse.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began an investigation of the electronic gear shifter, which is called the Monostable and is manufactured by ZF, in 2015 following multiple injury reports and hundreds of complaints by consumers. The NHTSA closed its investigation earlier this year concluding that the Monostable gear shifter provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, which can increase the potential for unintended gear selection. Exiting a vehicle that is still running and that is not in park can lead to rollaway accidents, which carry the risk of serious injury and even death.
Following the investigation by the NHTSA, Fiat Chrysler issued a recall of 1.1 million vehicles. Roughly 812,000 of those vehicles are located in the United States. The recall was recently expanded to include 13,000 Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans. Fiat Chrysler has warned owners about the potential safety issue with the gear shifter and has encouraged drivers to exercise caution in making sure that their vehicles are in park before exiting.
Fiat Chrysler began notifying vehicle owners of the recall in April of this year, which indicated their plans to remedy the gear shifter issue with forthcoming software updates. The automaker has already begun sending software patches to dealers, which will cause the transmission to automatically shift to park if the driver’s door is opened, the driver’s seatbelt is unbuckled, or if the vehicle is stopped or moving slowly.
If you’ve been injured by a defective vehicle or automotive product, the defective motor vehicle lawyers at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. can help. Regardless of whether your injuries are the result of a design, manufacturing, or warning defect, our attorneys can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. We provide skilled and aggressive representation with the goal of obtaining the maximum recovery possible for your injuries.
Call our class action lawsuit attorneys today at (205) 933-1500 to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, and Montgomery, our attorneys can quickly travel to investigate your case