FCA Settles Lawsuit Over Star Trek Star’s Death

Parents claimed carmaker negligence led to fatal Jeep rollaway.

by on Mar.26, 2018

Actor Anton Yelchin was best known for his role as a young Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek series of movies.

(This story has been updated to note an initial recall notice had been sent to Yelchin prior to the incident that cost his life. He had not yet had the vehicle repaired.)

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reached a settlement with the parents of Anton Yelchin due to the unexpected death of the film star best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek film reboot.

The actor, then 27, died two years ago when his Jeep Grand Cherokee unexpectedly rolled away, crushing him against the gate on his suburban Los Angeles home. The carmaker was just beginning a recall of 1.1 million vehicles due to defective electronics shifters and an initial recall alert, evidence showed had reached Yelchin. But a final notice did not arrive until a week after his death.

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Specific details of the settlement with former Russian figure skaters Victor and Irina Yelchin were not released after the case was settled this week. The case was handled by Los Angeles Superior Court.

In a statement, the automaker said it was “pleased that we’ve reached an amicable resolution in this matter,” while adding “our deepest sympathies to the Yelchin family for their tragic loss.”

The settlement comes just as the Russian-born actor’s final film, an independent called “Thoroughbreds,” was released. Yelchin had dozens of film and TV credits, both on and off-camera, including providing voices for the Smurfs movies. He was also set to appear as Chekov in the third Star Trek film in the series coming out shortly after his death.

Federal safety regulators recalled three FCA models, including the Grand Cherokee, due to the transmission shifting mechanism.

(Star Trek actor’s parents to sue Fiat Chrysler. Click Here for the story.)

An investigation indicated Yelchin had gotten out of his and walked down a steep driveway when the 2015 Jeep suddenly started rolling down the hill, pinning him against a wall and a fence.

The incident was one of numerous claims involving the Grand Cherokee and other FCA models using a so-called e-shifter that, safety experts warned, could inadvertently be put into the wrong gear by motorists, allowing rollaways to occur. Data indicated that by the time the actor was killed there had been at least 68 injuries, 266 crashes and 308 reports of property damage.

After initially the technology it used, FCA subsequently agreed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ordering a recall covering about 1.1 million vehicles. (Several other automakers have been ordered by NHTSA to order their own recalls for similar reasons.)

(Click Here for more about the death of Anton Yelchin and Jeep’s shifter problems.)

The Jeep Grand Cherokee shifter was labelled "unintuitive" by NHTSA, and ordered recalled.

“Anton Yelchin was crushed and lingered alive for some time, trapped and suffocating until his death,” the lawsuit filed shortly after the actor’s June 2016 death said. His parents accused the automaker of negligence, product liability and breach of warranty.

“In spite of our unbelievable grief, we decided to come here to prevent other families from the same tragedy,” Victor Yelchin said after filing the lawsuit.

While evidence showed that interim recall notices had been mailed out more than two weeks before Yelchin’s death, the final notices weren’t received until a week after the rollaway incident.

(Feds expand investigation of Jeep shifter. Click Here for the story.)

The recall involved a software update meant to prevent drivers from unknowingly shifting into the wrong gear – especially when they intended to leave the vehicle in Park. The fix covers 2014 and 2015 model-year Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicles, as well as 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans.

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2 Responses to “FCA Settles Lawsuit Over Star Trek Star’s Death”

  1. Allen says:

    While there must be great sensitivity for this tragic loss, and not meaning any disrespect, what the article fails to mention is whether or not the parking brake was applied. To exit a vehicle on a steep incline and then stand in the path in the event it should roll does not seem like a terribly wise decision. Having worked around machinery for many years, I assume that, sooner or later, something is going to go wrong either due to my mistake or a mechanical failure. Am I missing something? Did the article not cover all aspects of this tragedy? I am assuming the engine had been shut off. The statement that the Jeep suddenly began rolling tends to suggest that everything possible was done to prevent it from moving, yet it did so anyway.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Allen, as someone who has done a fair but of off-road driving, I have learned that on a steep incline one should, indeed, rely on both the emergency brake and putting the car into Park. However, one should also not be faulted if a manufacturer produces a vehicle with a defect that can either let it slip out of Park or not properly engage in the first place.

      Paul E.



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