Fed Judge Approves Class Action Lawsuit Over Deadly Jeep/Dodge Shifter

Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin was allegedly killed in 2016 because the shifter in his Jeep Grand Cherokee was in Reverse instead of Park. FCA, now Stellantis, settled out of court in 2018. Now a federal judge has approved a class-action lawsuit. Many Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler vehicles had the controversial Monostable shifting mechanism

Which Jeep and Dodge models had Monostable shifters?

Jeep Grand Cherokee
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee | Stellantis

The Open Data Institute found “306 incidents of vehicle rollaway following intended shifts to Park in 2014 to 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees” alone. Reports of 68 injuries resulted between the three brands. The alleged culprit in all of these cases has been the controversial Monostable shifter. Between 2012 and 2015 FCA used the shifter for eight-speed automatic transmissions. 

The class-action lawsuit seeks to determine if FCA knew about the problems but chose to continue production, according to Mopar Insiders. Some of the conclusions of legal proceedings included “confusing to use” and “difficult.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration forced a recall in 2016 to address some of the issues it was getting reports about.

How many Jeep and Dodge vehicles had Monostable shifters?

 Dodge Charger Monostable shifter
2014 Dodge Charger Monostable shifter | Stellantis

A software update was provided by FCA for over 11 million cars and SUVs. These included 2012 to 2014 Dodge Chargers, 2012 to 2014 Chrysler 300 sedans, and 2014 to 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees. FCA said that this software update would fix the problems outlined by the NHTSA.

The NHTSA’s engineering analysis of the software fix wasn’t too cheery. “If the driver’s door is opened when the gearshift is not in Park, a chime sounds, and a message is displayed on the EVIC to warn the driver,” it stated. “In addition, the engine Start/Stop push-button control logic does not permit normal engine shut-off when the transmission is not in Park. 

“This logic may provide feedback to drivers who attempt to turn the engine off when the transmission is not in Park. However, this function does not protect drivers who intentionally leave the engine running or drivers who do not recognize that the engine continues to run after an attempted shut-off.”

What were the details of Anton Yelchin’s death?

2014 Dodge Charger
2014 Dodge Charger Monostable shifter | Stellantis

In the case of Yelchin’s death, reporting said he stopped in his Los Angeles driveway to get his mail. In the process, he failed to shift his Jeep Grand Cherokee into the Park position. The Jeep rolled down his driveway and crushed him. 

When he didn’t show up for rehearsal, friends went to his house. He was found dead, positioned between his Jeep and a driveway gate pillar, around midnight. Investigators discovered the Jeep’s Monostable shifter was still in the Reverse position. ZF Friedrichshafen AG manufactured the mechanism.

This initial trial will focus on if there are actually flaws in the shift mechanism. It will not address liability by FCA for costs of victims relative to injuries, damage, and other expenses. The lawsuit trial starts September 6 in the Eastern District of Michigan U.S. Court.

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