The Suffolk County, New York probate court has approved a $1.55 million wrongful death settlement following the 2015 death of a beloved New York realtor and mother killed when her 2012 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic spontaneously self-shifted from park into reverse, running over and killing her as she left the car in park with the engine running in order to retrieve her signage after hosting an open house.

Lieff Cabraser partner Wendy Fleishman was a passionate advocate for the plaintiff family in the face of formidable opposition from Mercedes-Benz USA. Mercedes-Benz never recalled the vehicle, never acknowledged a defect and contested the park-to-reverse defect theory, explaining that because the incident had no witnesses, nothing could be proven and also blaming the victim for not using parking brake and not turning engine off. The manufacturer’s arguments ultimately proved unsuccessful, in part after plaintiffs’ expert provided the court with video of himself placing the vehicle in park and the video capturing the vehicle self-shifting into reverse twelve seconds later.

Widespread Transmission Defect Dangers Continue to Plague the Auto Industry

The “false park” or “park to reverse” defect is a flaw in a vehicle’s transmission in which it is possible for the driver unknowingly to place the transmission shift selector into a position between park and reverse during normal vehicle operations. When a vehicle is in false park, it appears to the driver that the vehicle is fully in park. Some gear mechanisms are designed in ways that can make the current gear status ambiguous. This can lead to drivers exiting their vehicles in the belief the cars are in park, when in fact they are still in gear and can cause serious injuries and death as they roll into drivers and pedestrians.

Lieff Cabraser has a long history of advocacy on behalf of park-to-reverse victims and their families. Park-to-reverse gear slippage is a serious automobile defect that continues to surface to this day in the form of new incidents, injuries, and deaths, even involving brand-new cars. Learn more about these transmission defect cases on our False Park/Park-to-Reverse page.

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