Jeep Grand Cherokee owners Thursday filed suit against Fiat Chrysler, alleging the automaker concealed and failed to fix a shifter design defect linked to driverless rollaway accidents, including the death this week in Studio City of “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin.
The proposed class-action complaint — filed in Riverside’s U.S. District Court — alleges that the design flaw affects 811,000 vehicles, including 2014-2015 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees, 2012-2014 Chrysler 300s and 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers.
Fiat Chrysler spokesman Michael Palese said the automaker has not been served with the lawsuit and it would be “inappropriate” to comment at this time.
The lawsuit contends that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV concealed both its shifter design defect and hundreds of related accidents that caused property damage and injuries.
The plaintiffs also allege that the “raft of negative publicity” surrounding the recent disclosure of the problem has greatly diminished the resale value of their vehicles.
According to the complaint, the defect that has been responsible for at least 41 injuries, and possibly caused the death of Yelchin, who was killed in his driveway when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled down his driveway and pinned him against his brick mailbox.
“In making these vehicles, Fiat Chrysler failed at adequately and responsibly designing one of the most basic safety features — the gear shifter,” said Steve Berman, the attorney whose firm filed the suit. “The current shifters in these affected vehicles leave drivers with insufficient feedback to tell whether the car has actually been placed in park before they exit the vehicle, and it does not have a safety override that automatically puts the car in ‘park’ if the driver’s door is opened and pressure taken off the foot brake.”
Fiat Chrysler initiated a recall of 1.1 million cars worldwide equipped with the defectively designed shifter but has yet to provide any fix.
The lawsuit seeks recovery for vehicles owners’ losses including diminished vehicle value due to the design defect, as well as recoveries for other damages and an injunctive order to end Fiat Chrysler’s allegedly deceptive practices.
— Wire reports