Back on August 9, 2016 The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC blog informed readers that actor Anton Yelchin's parents had filed a wrongful death and product liability lawsuit against Fiat-Chrysler and the dealership that sold Yelchin his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Yelchin was an actor best known for his role as Chekov in the remake of the fan-beloved Star Trek film franchise. Reuters reported that Yelchin had driven back to his home to grab an item he thought he had forgotten and hopped out of his vehicle thinking it was in park. However, the car began to roll backwards along Yelchin’s steep driveway crushing the 27-year-old. This motor vehicle vs pedestrian accident caused his tragic death. It was later discovered that Yelchin's vehicle was under recall for a defective gear shift.
Late Recall Letter
811,000 vehicles nationwide and 1.1 million cars and SUVs globally, were affected by the recall. The auto recall covered models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Sport from the 2014-2015 model year, and models of the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300 Sedans from the 2012-2014 model years.
The lawyer representing Yelchin's parents contended that a recall letter arrived seven days after Yelchin’s death, which was obviously too late to be of use to the late actor. The Yelchin lawyer has since chosen to reveal the contents of the undated letter which stated, "Your vehicle may roll away, striking and injuring you, your passengers, or bystanders, if the vehicle's engine is left running, the parking brake is not engaged, and the transmission is not in the "PARK" position before exiting the vehicle."
In response to the lawsuit, the Valencia, California dealership that sold Yelchin the Jeep, submitted a request to be removed from the wrongful death lawsuit. Their explanation for the request was that Yelchin should be blamed for his own death due to the "misuse, misapplication, or damage” of the vehicle. The New York Daily news reported that the dealership accused Yelchin's parents of tampering with the Jeep after the accident and that they suggested that Yelchin himself made adaptations to the Jeep shortly after purchasing it.
In light of Yelchin’s death and the Jeep recall, his parents were not the only ones that sued over the defective gear shift. In fact, seven more class action lawsuits from California, Tennessee, and New York have been filed and are being consolidated here in Michigan, close to Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles' (FCA) U.S. headquarters, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Additional lawsuits like one from Texas involving a San Antonio woman jumping from her roll-away Jeep, seem to filed more and more frequently. Sonya Dawson, 49, parked her 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee before she exited the running vehicle and closed the door. Dawson alleges seeing the vehicle starting to roll backwards out of the corner of her eye and then began to give chase to stop her vehicle. She tried stopping it by pressing down on the brakes but was ejected. The car ran her food over causing significant foot injuries. Her personal injury attorney argues that the shifter doesn't include a safety override to allow drivers to exit the vehicle when it is not in park.
Yelchin's story shows the importance of automakers sending recall notices out in a timely fashion - preferably as soon as the malfunction is discovered. In turn, owners of those vehicles owe it to the safety of themselves and others to quickly get the vehicle serviced by the manufacturer and/or their certified mechanics.
It is important to take immediate action when a vehicle is under recall. Ignoring the recall or getting the vehicle serviced too late may lead to serious consequences such as minor and fatal injuries and death, if the vehicle's malfunctions lead to a car accident and the possibility of serious injury.
Drivers who are interested in knowing if their vehicle is under recall are encouraged to look up their VIN number on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website. Have you or someone you know been injured in an accident involving a vehicle under recall? If so, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC for a free consultation today. Contact us at 844.4MI.FIRM.