After Anton Yelchin Death, Jeep Class Action Lawsuits Consolidate in Michigan

THR Anton Yelchin HARG0743 - H 2016
Austin Hargrave

THR Anton Yelchin HARG0743 - H 2016

A slew of lawsuits have been filed against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the manufacturer of Jeep.

The suits claim a defective gear shifter contributed to hundreds of incidents, including the death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin after his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backward when he was standing behind it and it pinned him against a pillar and fence.

More than a dozen federal lawsuits have been filed across seven states in response to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration investigation into the gear shifters. Five of them are class actions and two are individual personal injury suits.

A judicial panel on Wednesday ruled that three class actions, in California, New York and Tennessee, should be centralized to the Eastern District of Michigan, where FCA is headquartered. On Thursday it conditionally transferred four more cases. (The panel did not immediately decide if individual personal injury cases should be included.)

"The actions share complex factual questions arising out of allegations that the monostable electronic gearshift installed in certain vehicles manufactured by FCA US LLC is defective and unreasonably dangerous in that it allegedly fails to provide the driver with an adequate indication of whether the vehicle is in the 'park' position and lacks a safety override function that would place the vehicle in 'park' automatically when a driver exits the vehicle while it is in another gear," writes Judge Sarah Vance, the panel chair.

Yelchin's parents, Victor and Irina, are also suing the automobile manufacturer and the dealership that sold the Jeep. That suit was filed in California state court, so it will not be consolidated with the others. TMZ reported on Thursday that the dealership claims Yelchin's death was the result of "misuse, misapplication, or damage" of the Jeep.

The Yelchin family attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The vehicles at issue in the federal cases are: Dodge Charger (2012-14); Chrysler 300 (2012-14); Jeep Grand Cherokee (2014-15); Maserati Quattroporte (2014); Maserati Ghibili (2014); and Dodge Ram (2012-14).