LOS ANGELES • The parents of the late Star Trek Beyond actor Anton Yelchin sued Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for negligence and product liability on Tuesday, over the rollaway crash of a Jeep Grand Cherokee that killed their son.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is believed to be the first wrongful death complaint linked to the Fiat Chrysler recall in April of more than 1.1 million cars and SUVs because of vehicles that roll away after drivers exit them.
Yelchin, 27, was killed on June 19. His 2015 Grand Cherokee, covered under the recall, rolled backwards in the steep driveway of his Los Angeles home and crushed him against a concrete mailbox.
The lawsuit points to a "defective" transmission gear-selector design as being the cause of numerous rollaway mishaps. Yelchin was "crushed and lingered alive for some time, trapped and suffocating until his death," it said.
Mr Gary Dordick, the attorney representing Yelchin's parents, said Fiat Chrysler had sent a recall letter to the actor that was received seven days after his death.
The undated letter addressed to Yelchin was displayed at a news conference and said "your vehicle may roll away, striking and injuring you, your passengers, or bystanders, if the vehicle's engine is left running, the parking brake is not engaged, and the transmission is not in the 'Park' position before exiting the vehicle."
Mr Dordick said Yelchin had returned home that evening to pick up something he had forgotten and exited the car. The actor was supposed to meet friends for rehearsal, police said. When he did not show up, his friends went to his home and found him dead by his vehicle.
He was best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the recent series of Star Trek films.
Last week, his parents, both celebrated figure skaters in the former Soviet Union, filed documents asking to become administrators of their son's US$1.4-million (S$1.88- million) estate, as he left no will.
"In spite of our unbelievable grief, we decided to come here to prevent other families from the same tragedy," his father, Victor, said in tearful remarks to reporters. His wife, Irina, said: "He was very special, but now he's very special because his death might just save some other life."
The automaker said it had not been served with a lawsuit and expressed its "sympathies to the Yelchin family for their tragic loss".
The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said the gear selectors in question clearly pose a safety issue. The problem has been tied to at least 68 injuries, 266 crashes and 308 reports of property damage. Yelchin's death marked the first known fatality.