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Why Is Porsche Being Sued Over Paul Walker's Fatal Crash?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

Automaker Porsche Cars North America is being sued for wrongful death over the crash that killed "Fast and Furious" actor Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas.

The lawsuit by Rodas' widow comes a little more than six months after the fiery crash in Santa Clarita, California. An investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol found that the accident was caused by unsafe speed.

So why is Rodas' widow suing Porsche?

Not Fast, Pretty Furious

The lawsuit brought by Kristine Rodas contends that the crash was not caused by speed but rather by the defective design of the vehicle in which her husband and Walker were driving. "The Carrera GT was unsafe for its intended use by reason of defects in its manufacture, design, testing, component and constituents, so that it would not safely serve its purpose," the lawsuit claims.

In particular, the lawsuit singles out defects in the gas tank and the lack of a proper crash cage built into the car as being defects in the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT's design. In general, product liability cases involving claims of defective design must prove that a product was unsafe as designed when used as it was intended by the manufacturer.

Crashworthiness in Question?

Rodas and her attorneys may argue for liability based on crashworthiness. Crashworthiness is a concept in vehicle defect cases that measures the ability of a vehicle to minimize occupant injuries in the event of a crash.

To succeed on a crashworthiness claim, the plaintiff must show that the car's design caused the injuries in a crash or increased the risk or severity of injury. In this case, Rodas could try to argue that adding additional safety measures to the car was a feasible alternative and would not have prevented the car from being used as it was intended.

Defective Manufacture Alleged

Rodas' suit also contends that the car was manufactured with a defective suspension system and this defect caused the crash. Similar to defective design, to succeed on a products liability claim based on defective manufacture of a motor vehicle, a plaintiff must generally show that:

  • The vehicle or one of its components had an unreasonably dangerous defect that came into existence during the manufacturing of the vehicle.
  • The defect caused an injury while the vehicle was being used in the way that it was intended to be used.
  • The vehicle had not been substantially changed from the condition in which it was originally sold.

According to Rodas' attorney Mark Geragos, experts who have evaluated the wreckage have questioned the finding that the crash was caused by excessive speed. If the case heads to trial, there could be a battle of dueling experts, and the issue could take years to resolve.

Porsche Cars North America did not immediately reply to emails seeking comment, the AP reports.

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