Jeep Dealership Claims Anton Yelchin's Death Was His Own Fault, Wants Out of Lawsuit

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
jeep dealership claims anton yelchin s death was his own fault wants out of lawsuit

A new wrinkle has cropped up in the lawsuit filed against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles by the parents of late Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin.

Yelchin died in June after being pinned against a gatepost by his 2015 Jeep Cherokee, which was subject to a recall for its confusing Monostable shift lever. According to documents obtained by TMZ, the dealer that sold him the vehicle blames the victim for the accident.

The actor’s Grand Cherokee was one of more than 800,000 FCA vehicles voluntarily recalled by the automaker in April. FCA’s short-lived Monostable shifter, which returns to a center position after a driver shifts gears, is blamed for dozens of roll-away accidents. Due to the design, some drivers mistakenly believe they’ve shifted into park, even though the vehicle is still in “drive”, “reverse”, or “neutral.”

Yelchin’s Jeep was found at the bottom of his steep driveway, engine running, with the transmission in neutral.

According to the TMZ report, the Valencia, California dealer named in the wrongful death lawsuit wants its name removed from the suit. The dealer claims that Yelchin’s death was due to his own “misuse, misapplication, or damage” of the vehicle. While TMZ says this suggests Yelchin may have modified the vehicle in some way, we’re not sure how you’d modify a factory shifter of that type, or why.

It’s far more likely the dealer put out a blanket statement to remove itself from legal action against the actual designer and builder of the vehicle and shifter — as any dealer would.

The dealer also claims Yelchin’s parents didn’t preserve the vehicle in the state in which it was found, which could erase evidence. In the wake of the accident, FCA claimed it would examine the vehicle.

All recalled Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep models equipped with the shifter will receive a software update and “auto park” feature to prevent roll aways.

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  • DenverMike DenverMike on Oct 06, 2016

    It sounds like he left it in Drive, jumped out and the Hill Start Assist (brake hold) let him believe the Cherokee was in Park. Otherwise he would've known instantly when he let off the brake, it wasn't in Park. This allowed him just enough time to get behind the truck before the HSA released the brakes.

  • Towncar Towncar on Oct 07, 2016

    Thanks for the idea, DenverMike. Since this whole story broke, I've been unable to see how in the world the guy got behind a car that was rolling backward. At least this seems plausible. But it leaves me with yet another question--WTF do you need a hill holder on an automatic??

  • MaintenanceCosts TX 550h+ will go on the test-drive list for our next car. I'm sure it won't be as nice to drive as an X5 PHEV, but it will also likely be $15k cheaper for comparable equipment and have more cargo space.
  • 2ACL If I'm going to battle 30-year-old BMW problems, then the car had better be representative of their greatest hits. I hear the M42 is a decent motor, but it just doesn't personify BMW excellence of the period. Also did some digging in the seller's other posts to try and determine the transmission type. . ."Test drive was magnificent, for an automatic, it eventually gets up to speed." Free-revving four + four-speed slushbox = definite pass.
  • SCE to AUX This is good news, as long as the Tesla plug can deliver the kind of power needed in the future. I'm not sure that's a settled matter.
  • SCE to AUX Hyundai/Kia/Genesis, if we're talking mfrs of consequence in the EV space.But to their credit, they've tried to remain distinct from the Tesla approach to everything. They've been quick to respond to the Biden IRA domestic content stuff for EVs (by building more US plants), so maybe they'll jump on this NACS bandwagon.
  • FreedMike I guess it's good to hear they finally made the third row livable - the one on the old RX was a joke - but, man, is this generic-looking.