NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) refers to the "Park-to-Reverse" issue as "Unintended Powered Roll-Away" and has opened numerous investigations of these events over the last 35 years.
PARK TO REVERSE VEHICLE DEFECT
PARK TO REVERSE VEHICLE DEFECT
"Park-to-Reverse" or "False Park" is a term to describe when a vehicle is between the Park and Reverse gear positions, without the parking pawl engaged.
Instead of immediately defaulting into gated park or reverse as a properly designed transmission should, the vehicle’s transmission can be shifted to between gears where it can self engage powered reverse after a dwell or delay period of a few seconds to several minutes or longer
Slight movements in the vehicle, vibration, or the build up of hydraulic pressure in the transmission can then cause the vehicle to reengage powered reverse.
“Park to reverse” issues are nearly always caused by a design flaw in a vehicle's transmission which makes it possible for a driver to unknowingly place the vehicle's shift selector into a position in between the Park and Reverse gear positions. Yet rather than being in Park, this area is a transitional zone between gears, which is sometimes called "false park".When a vehicle's transmission is in false park, it appears to the driver that the vehicle is fully locked in Park. However, on vehicles with this defect the transmission is neither in park nor in hydraulic reverse. Instead, it is in neutral, an unstable position between the two gears.
What is the danger?
From this false park position, slight movements in the vehicle, vibration, or the build up of hydraulic pressure in the transmission can then cause the vehicle to reengage powered reverse after a delay from a few seconds to longer periods of time (what is called a "self shift"). This will cause the vehicle to suddenly and without warning move backwards unexpectedly under engine power.
If the driver has exited the vehicle with the engine running (to for example, retrieve an item, open a gate, or close a garage door etc.), a vehicle in false park can shift into powered reverse from a few seconds to several minutes, after the driver has exited, and then run over the driver or a bystander.
Inadvertent movement defects allegedly exists on many millions of Ford and Chrysler vehicles on the road today, as well as on certain vehicles made by other companies. These vehicles include but not limited to:
Ford F Series Pick-ups
Ford Crown Victoria
Certain Ford Econoline vans
Certain Ford Aerostar Minivans
Ford rear-wheel drive vehicle
Certain Dodge Durangos SUV
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Certain Jeep Wranglers
PARK TO REVERSE VEHICLE DEFECT LAWSUITS
FIRST PARK-TO-REVERSE CASE AGAINST CHRYSLER IN 25 YEARS TO MAKE IT TO TRIAL
In 2007, Scott Nealey took Mraz v. DaimlerChrysler to trial in a case that involved the death of a Los Angeles dockworker killed by a park-to-reverse defect in a Dodge Dakota. A jury in Los Angeles Superior Court returned a verdict of $54.2 million, including $50 million in punitive damages, while on appeal the case was eventually resolved for $24 million. California Lawyer called the Mraz victory against DaimlerChrysler, “one of the year’s largest personal injury verdicts,” and noted “this was the first park-to-reverse case against Chrysler in 25 years to make it to trial.”
Mr. Nealey was also the lead trial lawyer in a subsequent trial against Chrysler that resulted in a $7.2 million verdict in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, and has prepared for trial, and resolved, a number of additional automobile and other product defect matters.