By on October 6, 2016

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-006

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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37 Comments on “Jeep Dealership Claims Anton Yelchin’s Death Was His Own Fault, Wants Out of Lawsuit...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The only way I can see the dealer having a role, is if the dealer is responsible for teaching its customers how to properly use this shifter. Otherwise, they seem justified in wanting their name removed from the lawsuit.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      That’s how lawsuits work in CA. Home builders get sued for faulty plumbing and every contractor involved in the tract gets named in the suit, dozens even block-fence masons.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think they’d be better off if they kept quiet. Nobody would’ve paid them any mind as the dealer who sold him the car. Who cares where he bought it? That’s not the issue at hand.

      Sounds like the dealer’s lawyer is eager to have his name in the press.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Well some dealers do demonstrate how to work features of their vehicles upon delivery. An unusual shifter mechanism certainly seems like one of those features that you would want to point out the proper operation of along with how to pair your phone. So yeah maybe they do a vehicle orientation upon delivery and they want to try and get out before someone figures out that they don’t tell people how to operate the shifter, just how to pair your phone.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Is the dealer supposed to train everyone that will possibly use it? Or all those jumping in it move it a few feet? What about the niece at the party? The helpful neighbor? And the 2nd or 3rd owners and everyone they know or expect to ever drive it. I think the dealer is gonna be busy!

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Of course hey can’t inform everyone who could eventually drive the vehicle but informing the person who takes delivery on the other hand should be expected.

          • 0 avatar
            Testacles Megalos

            So some questions, should dealers have an obligation to refuse to sell product that they see as dangerous and/or defective? and if so, where is the line between safe/dangerous or defective? Who has the responsibility to determine this? If the dealer has a responsibility to screen what they sell (and refuse to sell certain products to certain customers who might be judged to be incompetant for a given piece of technology), can a potential customer who wants the product hold a dealer liable for damages if the dealer follows through on their obligation?

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Typical FCA move not supporting their junk products.

    • 0 avatar
      paxman356

      It’s not FCA, it’s the dealer that sold him the car. FCA would still be on the lawsuit.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      1. It’s a dealer who said this, not FCA corporate.

      2. The part itself is not an FCA part; it was designed and manufactured by ZF Friedrichshafen AG and used on the ZF 8 speed auto. FCA has since redesigned the part and no longer uses it.

      3. With a screen name like “VW”, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

      • 0 avatar
        Deontologist

        It’s FCA’s fault to a great extent.

        Let’s say I build houses. Some supplier sends me a new type of nail. I don’t thoroughly test it but use it anyway. The nail has a higher than normal failure rate. It’s partly my fault! I could have tested the nail and realized it sucked. I could have just stuck with the tried and true nails too.

        Also note that other car companies use the same shifter, but their cars auto park when the door opens. Makes a great deal of sense. FCA didn’t think of this.

        • 0 avatar
          SSJeep

          Disagreed. I liked the Monostable shifter and saw no issues with it. Granted, it may not be familiar to someone who is used to shifting on the steering wheel, but with familiarity it works fine.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I own a 2015 Grand Cherokee with one of these shifters. I’m definitely no FCA (or even Jeep) fanboy, but I have to agree with them that it was his own fault.

  • avatar

    He didn’t use the parking brake. Contributory negligence.

    • 0 avatar
      JimWalewander

      I call bullshit. I have no data, but I’ll bet 99.9% of owners of cars with automatics never touch their parking brake.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Forget the parking brake…. He failed to put the vehicle in park! He failed!!!

      There are two ways to visually confirm the vehicle is in park. One is on the dashboard display. The other is on the shifter itself. This is not difficult.

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    It’s California —-you sue for anything

  • avatar
    65corvair

    My Honda Accord is in a level garage as I write this. The parking brake is on. I never get out of the car with the engine running. My Corvair with the powerglide doesn’t have a park, it will roll away no mater where the shifter is. That was how it was designed. Doesn’t matter who is at fault, Anton is dead. Should FC recall them? Yes.

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    Dealer is wictor wictor.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    The mechanical failure wasn’t his fault..but the result was. You are supposed to set the parking brake at ALL TIMES. Manual or Automatic. If you drive a stick you should leave it first as well. A few years ago I set the parking brake on my manual shift car and it started rolling down a hill. I threw myself in front of it and luckily somebody heard my calls for help and jumped in front and put it in first. The parking brake failed, but I didn’t put it into first. So I was at fault if the car had rolled over me and taken my life. We’ve become way too complacent in our “automatic everything” world. The first thing that gets sacrificed is safety.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Actually you need to put it in the gear that will do the most good and depending on the slope of the ground you are parked on that might be Reverse instead of 1st. In other words if you are parked in a position where the vehicle would want to roll backwards it should be in reverse for maximum effectiveness and to prevent a roll away from turning the engine backwards.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @bluegoose: There was no mechanical failure.

      The issue is whether Mr Yelchin’s failure to put the car into Park is 100% his fault, or whether FCA’s design provided deceptive or misleading feedback to the driver.

      FCA has implicitly acknowledged a design flaw by issuing an update/recall to improve the user interface, but this doesn’t absolve Mr Yelchin of his duty to use the shifter properly.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      There was no mechanical failure. He simply failed to properly put the vehicle in Park.

  • avatar
    nemosdad

    Allow me to regale you a whale of a tail regarding that shifter.
    Neighbor has a bunch of vehicles that needed to be swapped around in his driveway. Jumped in his 300C to help with the musical chairs. Figured I’d cut his time down and up his safety factor (fairly sure it’s an Indy practice strip, blind corners,kids,dogs et al.)

    Took me a minute or two to figure out what I was doing and another minute or two to even find reverse. Than I had to figure out how to get it into drive. I did not help, I hindered.

    I’ve driven almost every kind of vehicle out there but that shifter is not intuitive. With some more time I might like it, but I failed hard at my first crack of the bat.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The gated PRNDL shifter is one thing that’s been standardized for decades, even if not a code requirement. Automakers stuck to it avoid confusion and situations like this, and tragedies obviously, mostly for exiting a vehicle not in Park.

    So why reinvent the wheel here? The Auto-Park feature is an obvious given, and of course already on Mercedes and BMWs with the same gizmo shifter. FCA screwed the pooch here.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I’m not saying it’s Chrysler’s fault, but what is the big advantage of doing a shifter like this vs what’s been working and people are comfortable with? Less space taken from the console? Who cares?

    I tend to be in the camp that the driver was responsible but it was a really poor design that a company should have had the foresight not to be build to avoid incidents like this.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      It’s not a poor design. It works extremely well.

      Why done we blame the contractor that installed his driveway on such an incline. Surely that played a bigger part in this than the shifter did.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Is it coincidence that FCA co-marketed the new Star Wars movie AND designed their shifter to kill Scottie? I don’t think so.

        Although, maybe EBflex is right and we SHOULD blame the victim. I mean, what kind of idiot makes millions of dollars acting in movies, and drives FCA?

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Of course it’s his own fault. He was a moron!

    Nobody forced him to exit his vehicle without properly securing it and nobody forced him to run behind the rolling Grand Cherokee. This was completely avoidable had he done what people are taught day one of drivers ed. Secure your vehicle before you exit. It’s a simple concept.

    This shifter works just fine. Quit using it as a scapegoat.

  • avatar
    TheBlueSoap

    The Toyota Prius has the same style of shifter,returns to original location after great is selected. I cannot recall hearing about any accidents or deaths from the prius,although not sure if it has the auto brake feature if transmission is in great and door is open. If the prius does not have said feature I would chalk it up to driver error in the FCA cases.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    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.

  • avatar
    Towncar

    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??

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