— Two Jeep Grand Cherokee gear shifter lawsuits have been filed by two moms who claim the design of the gear shifters caused them serious injuries when the SUVs rolled away.
The women, from New Hampshire and Virginia, filed separate injury lawsuits against Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) alleging the Jeep Grand Cherokees rolled over their legs due to the defective design of the gear shifters.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee gear shifters are made by ZF North America and work completely different than normal gear shifters used with automatic transmissions. The ZF electronic shifters always return to a central location, meaning a driver must always look at lights or indicators to know if a vehicle is in PARK.
More than 700 complaints have been filed alleging the shifters caused serious confusion when shifting the transmissions into PARK. In addition to the 700 complaints, at least 308 claims of property damage have been reported, along with 212 crashes and 41 injuries.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee gear shifter is also the focus of an investigation into the death of actor Anton Yelchin, who was killed when he was crushed by his Jeep as it rolled away.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Gear Shifter Lawsuit (New Hampshire)
The New Hampshire plaintiff, Becky Peoples, alleges she suffered a traumatic injury when her Jeep rolled over both of her legs after it dragged her and knocked her face-first onto the ground as she tried to stop the Grand Cherokee.
According to the lawsuit, Peoples put the SUV in park and after she exited the Jeep, it began to roll. The plaintiff says she tried to stop the rollaway Jeep as it dragged her with it as the SUV hit a neighbor's mailbox and rolled across the street. The lawsuit alleges the damage to her legs left her in leg braces for 12 weeks and caused more than 20 trips to physical therapy.
The plaintiff says FCA sent an investigator to check the Grand Cherokee after the incident and said there was nothing wrong with the SUV or the shifter, leaving her stuck with driving the vehicle.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Gear Shifter Lawsuit (Virginia)
Grandmother Daneen Holcomb filed the second gear shifter lawsuit alleging the Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled away and knocked her to the ground, running over her ankles and feet.
The plaintiff says she stopped at the end of her driveway to open her mailbox, so she exited the SUV after allegedly putting it into PARK. The Jeep started rolling and pushed her to the ground and caused her head and back to land on the gravel driveway.
According to the lawsuit, the Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled over her feet and ankles, causing severe ankle sprains, soft tissue injury, contusions and deep lacerations to her heels and feet.
Holcomb says after all that, the Jeep rolled off her property and into a neighbor's yard, hitting a school bus.
Safety regulators investigated the shifters and determined the shifters were so problematic that Chrysler switched to gearshift assemblies that stay in the position of the selected gear, making the shifters similar to typical shifters used with automatic transmissions.
According to the government, the shifter isn't consistent and simply isn't easy to use, something important to maintain vehicle safety.
NHTSA admitted the vehicles have warnings to prevent drivers from leaving the vehicles without the vehicles in PARK, including audible chimes and visual warning messages used to alert a driver if the driver-side door is opened while the transmission is not in PARK. However, drivers continue to ignore the warnings.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee gear shifter lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Charlottesville Division.
The plaintiffs are represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.