Nearly two years to the day Fast and Furious star Paul Walker died in a car crash, his father has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against auto maker Porsche. It’s the second such lawsuit against the German car manufacturer. The first was filed by Walker’s teen daughter, Meadow.
The 40-year-old movie star was a front seat passenger in a rare 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, driven by professional racer friend Roger Rodas. The vehicle struck a lamppost and tree in suburban Los Angeles. The vehicle burst into flames shortly after impact, and Rodas and Walker, 40, were burned beyond recognition.
Although investigators with the county and state deduced that high speeds were likely the core cause of the crash, the lawsuit filed by Walker’s father asserts the vehicle lacked important safety features found not just on other high-end racing cars, but on the company’s basic models.
It was well-established even after the crash that this vehicle is different than most you will find on the road. For starters, it reaches a top speed of more than 208 mph. As the editor-in-chief at Car and Driver magazine once pointed out, the car was created specifically for racing, and it’s, “Not a car for novices.”
It is not an easy vehicle to drive, and there have been some who have commented this was by design. In fact, it is a key point of contention in pending litigation. Specifically, the vehicle is unusual because it lacks a feature known as electronic stability control. When it comes to mistakes, experts say, the vehicle is “unforgiving.” A vehicle that is equipped with electronic stability control can help correct slides or keep the driver from losing control. This vehicle changes directions very quickly and the throttle can allow for hyper-fast acceleration. Pro-racers describe the vehicle as “tricky.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) passed a measure that requires electronic stability control to be phased into standard equipment on all passenger vehicles under 10,000 pounds by no later than 2012 models. The car Walker was in was a 2005 model.
Walker’s father asserts the company’s failure to install this system meant that drivers and passengers were vulnerable to swerving actions in vehicles that were already hypersensitive. Further, plaintiff alleges the side-door reinforcements were weak, and the design of the seat belt was defective. Plaintiff asserts that the collective effect of these designs was that when the vehicle made impact, Walker’s torso was snapped backward with thousands of pounds of force. His pelvis and ribs were broken. He was trapped in a horizontal position, alive, until the vehicle caught fire about 90 seconds later.
The lawsuit also asserts the fire was preventable had the car manufacturer installed a breakaway fuel line that would have shut down the flow of fuel automatically.
Porsche, however, has countered that Walker’s death was caused by his own comparative fault. The celebrity was a knowledgeable passenger, well aware of the risks associated with driving this particular vehicle. Walker, who owned the car, altered it significantly, according to the manufacturer. The $450,000 vehicle was allegedly running with 9-year-old tires, Porsch alleges. This improper maintenance and reckless operation of the vehicle, the company opines, was the cause of the two deaths.
Both California, where this case was filed, and Florida, adhere to a pure comparative fault model, which allows plaintiff’s share of fault to reduce or offset defendant’s liability. However, a plaintiff’s own negligence will not bar the claim entirely. In fact, plaintiff who is majority at fault in a pure comparative fault model system can still collect damages from a defendant who shares at least some of the blame.
Although there aren’t likely to be many lawsuits involving this particular model – there are only 1,300 of them in existence – there are many vehicles that are not properly designed, and this can play a critical role in crash causation or failure to mitigate injuries. If you are injured in a serious traffic accident in Fort Lauderdale, call our attorneys to learn more about how we can help. This particular type of action, against the manufacturer of a product, is known as product liability, and it’s an aspect of any crash case that should be explored.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Porsche is Blaming Paul Walker for His Fatal Car Accident, Nov. 17, 2015, By Megan Friedman, Esquire.com
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