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Jake Lingeman, Autoweek

Porsche sued over Walker/Rodas crash

Lawsuit blames Carrera GT for deaths, claims pair was driving at a safe speed

May 13, 2014 - 3:10pm

Porsche Sued Over Paul Walker Crash

In this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, file photo, firefighters work next to the wreckage of a Porsche that crashed into a light pole killing actor Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas in Valencia, California.


Kristine Rodas, the widow of Roger Rodas — who in November 2013 was killed along with “Fast and Furious” actor Paul Walker in a Porsche Carrera GT crash — has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the automaker.

The suit filed against Porsche Cars North America says Mr. Rodas was driving at 55 mph, not in excess of 90 mph as the official crash investigators determined. It also says the vehicle lacked a proper crash cage and safety features in the gas tank that could have saved the men. Finally, the suit claims a failure in the Porsche's suspension forced it to careen out of control in Santa Clarita, California, striking a lamppost and several trees before it came to rest and burst into flames. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Porsche Cars North America.

“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,” according to the suit.

The post-crash investigation conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol concluded that Mr. Rodas was driving the car too fast, and did not identify any mechanical problems with the Carrera GT. The difference of opinion between the official crash investigators and those hired by Kristine Rodas' attorney will be a big part of the case.

“We are very sorry for the Rodas and Walker families' loss,” Porsche said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “The crash was the subject of a detailed investigation by the proper authorities (L.A. County Sheriff and California Highway Patrol), and their investigation disproves the allegations in the lawsuit. The investigation found that driving at a high speed in a negligent manner caused the crash and concluded that there was no mechanical defect.”

Autoweek predicted in December there would be a lawsuit related to the fatal crash, but speculated Capt. Craig McClellan — a former SCCA driver, ex-Marine and attorney who was involved in one of the first Ford Explorer rollover trials — would do the arguing. But Mr. Rodas' widow chose Los Angeles-area lawyer Mark Geragos, whose clients include convicted murderer and death-row inmate Scott Peterson, embattled entertainer Chris Brown and NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield.

Messrs. Rodas and Walker co-owned an auto racing team/exotic car shop named Always Evolving. The two met almost a decade ago when Walker saw Rodas driving a Porsche GT3 he once owned. They became friends, then business partners. Always Evolving and Walker's estate is handling the sale of the late actor's cars.

Jake Lingeman writes for Autoweek, a sister publication of Business Insurance.

 



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