Recalled Jeep Involved With Death of Star Trek Actor
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Fans of the recent Star Trek movies were shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin. Yelchin was tragically killed at his home on June 19, 2016. Authorities say the accident happened when Yelchin had gotten out of his Jeep to check his mailbox, but his vehicle was not properly put into “park” and rolled backwards down the driveway, pinning the actor between the vehicle and the mailbox.
Authorities are still investigating the incident and have not yet made an official announcement about what exactly caused the accident. However, authorities have confirmed that the vehicle involved in the accident was a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. In April 2016, Fiat Chrysler voluntarily recalled over 800,000 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers, 2012-2014 Chrysler 300 sedans, and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, so the Jeep Yelchin was driving that day was included in that recall. People Magazine reports that Fiat Chrysler is cooperating with the investigation.
These cars were recalled because they were equipped with an unusually designed gearshift device that many people found confusing. Unlike traditional gearshift devices that remain in the position of the gear the car is in, these devices were designed to always returned to a centered position. So if the driver pushed or pulled the shifter to put it into “park,” “reverse,” or “drive,” the device would always return to that center position. The only thing to visibly indicate which gear the car is in is a lit-up letter.
The NHTSA has received several reports of these vehicles being involved in rollaway accidents that are very similar to what may have happened to Yelchin and began investigating the incidents in August 2015. The drivers of these cars believed they had put their vehicles in “park,” but they were actually in “neutral,” “drive,” or “reverse.” When the drivers exited the vehicle, their vehicles continued moving, often causing property damage and injuries. In April, when Fiat-Chrysler voluntarily recalled the vehicles, they said they were aware of over 40 injuries caused by these rollaway car accidents. However, the NHTSA says they’ve been able to identify 121 car crashes or fires caused by these cars rolling away and 30 incidents that involved injuries to drivers or passengers.
As part of the recall, Fiat Chrysler sent owners of the affected cars information about how to properly use the gearshift device. But some people who made complaints about the vehicles feel like adding more in-vehicle warnings and sending out instructions will only do so much and that replacing the gearshift device with a more traditional type is the only way to truly solve the problem.
When the recalls were announced in April, Fiat Chrysler issued a statement saying no evidence of equipment failure was found in these accidents, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the vehicles aren’t defective. In many defective product cases, products are found to be defective by design, meaning there’s something about the product’s design that makes it unnecessarily dangerous. Many product liability cases are also based around the claim that the manufacturer neglected to provide adequate warnings or instructions about how to use something properly.