Fiat Chrysler Rollaway Incidents – Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles
Defendants: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.,
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC,
FCA Canada Inc., and
ZF Friendrichshafen AG
Summary: Poorly designed gear shifters in selected models of Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles led to hundreds of accidents from vehicles moving when believed to be in park.
According to the U.S. government agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the “monostable” shifter in some models of Chrysler 300, Dodge Chargers, and Jeep Grand Cherokees, is “not intuitive, and offers “poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.” As predicted, there have been numerous reports of the affected vehicles shifting out of gear after the driver exits the vehicle and causing accidents, bodily harm and/or death.
The gear shifter in question was a new design at the time, by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, installed in 2012-2014 Chrysler 300’s, 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers, and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Caravans.
The new electronic ZF rotary shifters were unique in the sense that instead of moving the shifter to the symbol of the desired gear, drivers would push the shifter forward to put the vehicles into park, and pull the shifter backwards to put the vehicle into drive. To add to the confusion, the shifter automatically returns to the center position after you remove your hand. Many also reported that it was significantly less obvious determining which gear had been selected. There are also claims that a defect in the gear shift causes certain vehicle to shift itself out of park, into reverse.
The most high-profile instance of harm caused by this issue was the death of actor Anton Yelchin, famous for his parts in movies such as the Star Trek series, the Smurfs series, and Terminator Salvation. While checking his mail, his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee unexpectedly started moving when believed to be parked, rolling down his driveway and pinning him against a fence. Yelchin was trapped by his Jeep, unable to escape as he was continually crushed and suffocated.
Transport Canada issued a recall 26 April of 2016 to address the unintended vehicle movement related to the shifters and their increased risk of injury and crashes.
According to the Statement of Claim filed by Guardian Law Group, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles knew prior to releasing these models about the potential for confusion and this design decision increased the risk of injury and/or crashes. This represents negligence and a breach of their duty of care. Other automotive manufacturers who implemented similar electronic gear shifters implemented safety features to automatically put the vehicle in park if the driver got out.
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