Jeep Faces $5M Class Action Lawsuit After Anton Yelchin's Death

THR Anton Yelchin HARG0743 - H 2016
Austin Hargrave

THR Anton Yelchin HARG0743 - H 2016

A defective shifter and the lack of a safety override contributed to Anton Yelchin's death and hundreds of other incidents, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in California federal court. 

The 27-year-old Star Trek actor died Sunday after his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backward when he was standing behind it and it pinned him against a brick pillar and security fence.

Three plaintiffs have filed a class action complaint against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the manufacturer of Jeep, claiming a dangerously defective gear shifter is to blame for Yelchin's death and more than 300 other incidents. 

“One of the most basic safety features in every car is the gear shifter that causes a stationary car to remain stationary, unless and until an operator wants the car to move,” states the complaint. “FCA US LLC (“FCA”) broke this basic rule.”

According to the complaint, the manufacturer switched to a "ZF Shifter" for some of its models, and the ZF rests in a central position after the driver shifts which leaves the driver with no tactile signal the vehicle is safely parked.

“Though complaints and accident reports have been ongoing since at least early 2015, FCA has only recently initiated a voluntary recall of the over 811,000 Defective Shifter Vehicles in the United States; but to date it has only sent a letter to owners describing the design defect of the ZF Shifter, even though it knows exactly how to fix the problem by looking at what its competitors have done,” states the complaint. “FCA’s unreasonable delay in fixing the defect and its warning letter was obviously too little, too late for Mr. Yelchin, and nearly a million Defective Shifter Vehicles remain in unsuspecting owners’ driveways and garages.”

The suit seeks to force FCA to replace the shifters or install a safety override system that would automatically move the vehicle into park if the driver's door is open and the foot brake is released. Plaintiffs estimate damages will be in excess of $5 million.

Proposed class members include all persons who purchased or leased a 2012-14 Dodge Charger, 2012-14 Chrysler 300 or 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Plaintiffs are suing for breach of contract, unfair competition, false advertising and unjust enrichment, among other things. 

Earlier this week, both the automaker and the LAPD told The Hollywood Reporter they are investigating Yelchin's death.