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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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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??

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.