Sometimes it takes a tragedy involving a major public figure to remind us all injury because of defective products can happen to anyone, and that in many cases, problems that cause injury may not be readily apparent.
Actor Dies in Tragic Accident
Anton Yelchin, a 27-year old actor best known for his role as Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek movies, recently died in what is being described as a “freak accident.” Yelchin was crushed when his Jeep Cherokee SUV pinned him to a metal fence. The car was found with the engine running and the gear in neutral, and the driveway where the incident happened was steeply inclined.
It is now being revealed that the Jeep model that killed Yelchin was due for a recall because of a problem that could make drivers uncertain of what gear the car was actually in. In many cases—and it is believed, in Yelchin’s case—drivers would put the car in neutral, thinking that it was in park. Because the car was actually in neutral, it was not stationary, and could roll, injuring anybody in its path.
Car Had Been Recalled
Fiat Chrysler had recalled 1.1 million vehicles because of the problem, but it is not known if Yelchin’s had been brought in. It is reported that the recall came after many people complained that the gear shift was confusing to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In fact, Jeep changed the shifter for the 2016 and 2017 models.
Manufacturing and Design Defects
The tragedy is a perfect example of a design defect. When products malfunction, there are generally two types of problems that they may have.
The first problem is a manufacturing defect. This is where the product itself is perfectly safe, but one of the products is not manufactured properly. For example, car brakes generally do what they are supposed to, but if you buy a car in which the brakes happen to be weaker, or were manufactured improperly, may they fail due to the manufacturing defect. In slang terms, a manufacturing defect is a “one off”; one that came off the assembly line a bit different from the others.
This particular Jeep issue is an example of a design defect. A design defect is where the product works exactly as it is intended to—it does not “malfunction”—but it is designed in such a way that it causes injury, or does not act as it is supposed to. Here, Jeep purposely designed the transmission to operate the way it did. They did not anticipate the result of that design being confusion and risk of injury from a vehicle being accidentally left in neutral.
Unlike manufacturing defects, which may only affect the small percentage of people who get the defective products, with design defects, every product coming out of the factory is identical, and thus, potentially dangerous.
If you are injured by a product, do not assume that because it “worked the way it was supposed to,” that there is no liability. In many cases, a product’s design may make it inherently defective. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss the handling of any products liability injury issues.