The parents of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin filed a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging poor design and manufacture of the gear selector in his Jeep Grand Cherokee led to his death in June.
Plaintiffs Victor and Irina Yelchin filed the wrongful death and product liability lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court August 2 seeking unspecified damages.
Mr. Yelchin was killed June 19 in the driveway of his Los Angeles home when his Grand Cherokee rolled backward and pinned him up against a security gate and mailbox.
“Anton Yelchin was crushed and lingered alive for some time, trapped and suffocating until his death,” the complaint says.
Fiat Chrysler, which owns and manufactures the Jeep brand, recalled about 250,000 of its 2014 and 2015 model-year Grand Cherokees in April to repair the defect. The recalled Jeeps fell under a larger recall of 1.1 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles, including 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s.
The problem occurs in the “Monostable” shifter designed by German supplier ZF and integrated into various Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler models.
The gear selector does not move up and down and lock in place the way a traditional automatic shifter does, but moves back and forth to the desired gear, then returns to the center.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), this design increases the chance of unintended gear selection and leads some drivers to think their vehicle is in park gear when it is not. The agency reports that as of June, the gear shifters have led to 266 rollaway crashes and 68 injuries. Mr. Yelchin’s death was the first linked to the defect.
Mr. Yelchin received a safety recall notice from Fiat Chrysler in May but the parts were not available at the time of his death. The automaker mailed him another recall notice seven days after he died informing him that a fix for the gear shifter was ready.
The Yelchin lawsuit alleges that the Jeep did not engage or maintain its park gear when Mr. Yelchin exited the vehicle, probably to go back into his home to get something.
The 27-year-old actor immigrated to the U.S. with his parents from Leningrad, USSR when he was an infant. He was the Yelchins’ only son. The actor left behind a $1.4-million estate and a number of unreleased projects, including a Netflix series and four feature films.
Anton Yelchin reprised the role of Pavel Chekov in “Star Trek Beyond,” which was released after his death and grossed more than $106 million in the U.S. during its first two weekends.