In June 2016, the rising star of actor Anton Yelchin was extinguished when his 2015 Jeep Cherokee pinned him against a brick pillar in what his parents are calling a wrongful death. Reports state that the gear shift on the 2014 and 2015 models of this vehicle make it look like the vehicle is in park when it is actually in neutral. Yelchin’s parents contend that Fiat Chrysler knew about the problem, but did not do enough to solve it.
Circumstances Surrounding The Actor’s Wrongful Death
Yelchin was heading out for the night when he started up his 2015 Jeep Cherokee and then remembered that he had left something in his house. He thought he put the vehicle in park, and then left it running. As he was exiting his home, the Jeep had rolled backwards down his driveway and pinned him against a brick pillar.
Legally, issuing a recall does not necessarily make a manufacturer a target for lawsuits. In April 2016, Fiat Chrysler issued a statement saying there was no “evidence of equipment failure” in the Jeep Cherokee. The company also issued a recall of that model vehicle because of the transmission problem in April.
In May, the company sent out a letter to owners of the 2015 Jeep Cherokee that it acknowledged there was an issue and that a solution was under examination. It was proven that Yelchin did receive this letter.
Two weeks after he had passed away, Yelchin posthumously received a letter stating that there was a software fix available for the problem. When Fiat Chrysler issued the voluntary recall of the vehicle, it had documented proof of 41 injuries associated with the problem. Yelchin’s parents contend that the company did not act fast enough when it was obvious that there was a serious issue.
Why Fiat Chrysler Is Being Sued
It is recognized that wrongful death lawsuits are civil suits that are normally resolved financially. However, the attorney for Yelchin’s parents says that the couple is more interested in showing Fiat Chrysler that their recall process is fatally flawed and cannot be bought by a settlement. The couple plans to take the case to court. Furthermore, there are also indications that a class action suit against Fiat Chrysler by other owners of the 2014 and 2015 Jeep Cherokee is in the works.
The parents of Anton Yelchin are suing Fiat Chrysler because they feel that the company did not react quickly enough to what should have been considered a serious problem. The statement issued by Fiat Chrysler in April 2016 stating that there was no evidence of a mechanical flaw; is the type of irresponsible action the Yelchins are using as an example in their lawsuit.
Can This Case Be Won?
According to the Yelchin’s attorney, Fiat Chrysler is preparing for a battle. Whenever a public figure is involved in a situation like this, it brings in the media. The timing for all of this is suspicious and does not work in the favor of Fiat Chrysler. Only two months after the company contended that consumers are not reading their manuals and using their gear shift indicators correctly, there is a fatality involving this very situation.
Since Fiat Chrysler was made aware of 41 documented injuries associated with this issue, there was certainly enough evidence to issue a mandatory recall for all of the vehicles involved. The letter that Yelchin received just a month before his death is being used as evidence by Fiat Chrysler that the company did what it could to warn consumers. But that type of warning is not strong enough for Yelchin’s parents.
Pending Issues In Filing The Lawsuit
The issue with the 2015 Jeep Cherokee is not the mechanical functioning of its gear shifter. The issue is a design problem that confuses drivers and has lead to several injuries and one death. While Fiat Chrysler maintains that there are LED indicator lights that the driver should be using to determine what gear their vehicle is in, the parents of Anton Yelchin disagree.
A recall does not protect a manufacturer from lawsuits, nor is it allowed in invite lawsuits. In this instance, the plaintiffs contend that the defendant did not act in a proper manner when told of the pending issue. Now it will be up to a court to decide if the parents of Anton Yelchin are right or not.