By Chris Jensen,
An Atkinson woman who says she was injured last November when her 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled over her is suing Fiat Chrysler, saying her vehicle had the same defect linked to the death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin.
The suit filed Tuesday in federal district court in Concord asserts the automaker knowingly sold vehicles with such a poor design that drivers might think the transmission was in “park” when it was not, allowing it to roll away.
According to the suit, Rebecca Peoples of Atkinson, a 42-year-old mother of five, got out of the Jeep last November, thought the transmission was in “park” and left the engine running because it was chilly.
When it began to roll away, she tried to stop it but was run over by the vehicle, “suffering significant trauma to both legs,” the suit said.
A Fiat Chrysler spokesman said the automaker has not seen the suit and declined to comment.
Earlier this year the automaker recalled almost 812,000 2014 –15 Grand Cherokees, 2012-14 Dodge Chargers and 2012-14 Chrysler 300 models.
The vehicles use an unconventional “monostable” shift lever on the automatic transmission. Instead of staying in the selected gear, the shift lever returns to a center position. That makes it important for the driver to look and check that the transmission is in the desired gear.
In recalling the vehicle, Fiat Chrysler acknowledged that the monostable shifter lacked a device to “mitigate the effects of driver error,” according to a report the automaker filed with federal regulators.
Fiat Chrysler and Audi each bought similar monostable shifters from the German manufacturer ZF. But Audi said it installed a safety failsafe on its A8 sedan: an inexpensive software addition that would apply the emergency brake if the driver opened the door and the transmission was not in Park, according to Forbes.com.
The recall followed an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to The New York Times.
Yelchin was killed in June when his 2015 Grand Cherokee rolled down a driveway and struck him. It was one of the recalled vehicles.
The suit was filed by lawyers Benjamin Lajoie of Boston and Steve Berman of Seattle. Berman has also filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all the owners of the recalled vehicles.