A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for allegedly covering up a “dangerously defective” gear shifter in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The lawsuits comes just days after the tragic death of actor Anton Yelchin, who was crushed to death when his Grand Cherokee rolled backward down his steep driveway and pinned him against the metal gate and brick mailbox in front of his Los Angeles home.
“The safety issue is real,” the complaint states. “Well over 300 accidents have already been reported, causing dozens of serious injuries, and potentially the death of Anton Yelchin.”
“One of the most basic safety features in every car is the gear shifter that causes a stationary car to remain stationary, unless and until an operator wants the car to move,” the complaint states.
Many drivers of vehicles equipped with the confusing gear shifters think their car is in park when it actually is in neutral. The defect affects 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees as well as 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
“… the existing strategies built into these vehicles to deter drivers from exiting the vehicle after failing to put the transmission into PARK have not stopped some from doing so. Drivers erroneously concluding that their vehicle’s transmission is in the PARK position may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged.”
Mr. Yelchin’s death fits the NHTSA’s warning specifically, and the agency has confirmed the actor may be the first casualty attributed to the defect.
The class-action lawsuit warns that nearly a million drivers are currently at risk of injury or death because repairs to the defective gear shifters have not yet been made.
“Though complaints and accident reports have been ongoing since at least early 2015, [Fiat Chrysler] has only recently initiated a voluntary recall of the over 811,000 Defective Shifter Vehicles in the United States; but to date it has only sent a letter to owners describing the design defect of the ZF Shifter, even though it knows exactly how to fix the problem by looking at what its competitors have done,” the lawsuit asserts.
The gear shifter defect affects about 11 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles worldwide. The auto maker voluntarily recalled about 811,000 vehicles in the U.S. and 250,000 outside the U.S. on April 22, including Mr. Yelchin’s Grand Cherokee, but repairs to the vehicles have not been made.
The class-action seeks either a complete replacement of every shifter or the installation of a “safety override system that would automatically move the vehicle into park if the driver’s door is open and the foot brake is released.” The lawsuit also asks for punitive damages for fraud, compensation to vehicle owners for the loss of value, and temporary replacement vehicles for owners of the defective SUVs.
Source: Deadline.com – Complaint