A San Antonio, Texas, woman has filed a personal injury complaint against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over injuries she allegedly sustained when her 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled over her foot.
Sonya Dawson, 49, filed her lawsuit in federal court in San Antonio. Like many similar suits filed against Fiat Chrysler, Ms. Dawson alleges the gear shifter the automaker installed in some of its vehicles is defectively designed and prone to cause rollaway accidents.
According to the lawsuit, Ms. Dawson pulled into her driveway and put her Grand Cherokee diesel in park. She then got out of the vehicle with the engine still running and shut the door behind her.
“Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the … Cherokee had begun to roll backwards,” the lawsuit states. “She opened the door, attempted to jump back into the vehicle, and stop the vehicle by applying the brakes. However, Sonya was ejected from the vehicle and onto the ground.”
“As the vehicle rolled towards her, she attempted to avoid being run over and moved her left leg out of the way. However, the left front tire rolled over her right foot.”
Ms. Dawson’s complaint says that instead of remaining in the selected gear position like traditional gear shifters, the ZF shifter returns to the center, giving the driver the impression the vehicle is parked when it may be in neutral.
The alleged defect is the same one that is linked to the death of 27-year-old Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin in June 2016. Mr. Yelchin parked his Grand Cherokee in his driveway and got out of the vehicle. The SUV then rolled backwards, pinning him against a metal gate and mailbox until he could no longer breathe.
Shortly after Mr. Yelchin’s death called national attention to the German-made ZF shifters, Fiat Chrysler recalled more than one million 2012-14 Dodge Chargers, Chrysler 300 sedans, and 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees.
Ms. Dawson’s lawsuit faults Fiat Chrysler for failing to implement a shifter that provides “a reliable method of determining gear placement” and for failing to include a safety override that would prevent rollaway accidents.
Ms. Dawson seeks compensation for her losses and injuries, in addition to punitive and statutory damages. Fiat Chrysler also faces a class action suit filed last summer that alleges owners of vehicles affected by ZF shifter recall.