Anton Yelchin's parents suing Fiat Chrysler for son's death

Posted at 2:05 PM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 14:36:29-04

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The parents of "Star Trek" actor Anton Yelchin on Tuesday sued the makers of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, an SUV that was under recall when it crushed and killed the 27-year-old.

Victor and Irina Yelchin filed the wrongful-death and product-liability lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler in Los Angeles Superior Court roughly six weeks after their son was killed. The suit contends that the gear selector in the actor's Jeep was defective and poorly designed and manufactured.

"Anton Yelchin was crushed and lingered alive for some time, trapped and suffocating until his death," the lawsuit says.

The actor's Jeep rolled backward down the driveway of his Los Angeles home June 19, pinning him between a mailbox and a security fence. The SUV was among 1.1 million vehicles recalled in April because its gear shifters have confused drivers, causing the vehicles to roll away unexpectedly and leading to dozens of injuries.

Fiat Chrysler extended its sympathies to Yelchin's parents but said it could not comment on the lawsuit because it had not been served with it.

The suit does not say how much Yelchin's parents are seeking in damages. His mother cried as the family's attorney, Gary A. Dordick, said at a press conference that the automaker "put profits before safety."

Yelchin received a safety recall notice in May, and another notice was sent to the actor seven days after he died notifying him that the company had a fix for the gear shifter, Dordick said.

"The safety recall was way too little and way too late," the attorney said.

The lawsuit says Yelchin's SUV did not engage or maintain its "park" gear and that led to the vehicle crushing the actor. Dordick said he believes Yelchin went back in to his home to retrieve something and thought the car was in "park."

Yelchin is perhaps best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the rebooted "Star Trek" franchise. The third film in the series, "Star Trek Beyond," has grossed more than $106 million in the U.S. in its first two weekends.

The actor was the Yelchins' only son, and they have filed to oversee his estate, which is valued at nearly $1.4 million. Anton Yelchin left behind several unreleased projects, including the Netflix animated series "Trollhunters" and four films.

Drivers of the Jeep under recall have complained that they had trouble telling if they put the transmission in "park" after stopping. Many reported the vehicles rolled off after the driver exited.

A government investigation into the gear shifters found 266 crashes that had injured 68 people as of late June.

Fiat Chrysler has said it is speeding up its recall of the vehicle. Both the company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have urged drivers of vehicles subject to the gear shift recall to set their parking brakes before getting out of their vehicles.