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Lawsuit blames Porsche defects for fatal car accident

Anyone paying attention to the news recently is well aware that automotive defects can result in serious injury and death. The very delayed General Motors recall over faulty ignition switches is among the latest and most high-profile recall scandals. Prior to the GM recall, the Toyota “sudden acceleration” scandal stayed in the headlines for years.

It is worth noting, however, that individuals may be able to sue automakers for personal injury, products liability or wrongful death even if the allegedly defective vehicle was not subject to recall. Earlier this week, just such a lawsuit was filed in relation to the November 2013 car accident in Southern California that killed actor Paul Walker and a friend.

The star of the “Fast & Furious” franchise was a passenger in a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT driven and owned by a man named Roger W. Rodas. During a drive just a few days after Thanksgiving last year, Rodas lost control of the car and it veered off the road before striking three trees and a light pole. The vehicle then caught fire and both Rodas and Walker were killed.

The official crash investigation by the California Highway Patrol determined that Rodas was driving between 80 and 93 mph in a 45 mph zone, and that unsafe speed was the cause of the crash. The CHP also said that there was nothing inherently defective about the car that would have led to the crash.

But according to a lawsuit filed by Kristine M. Rodas, the car’s design and manufacturing were responsible for the crash. She alleges that her husband was driving only about 55 mph at the time, and the crash occurred because the vehicle lacks proper safety systems and because the car’s suspension system failed.

The details of the alleged defects have to do with features (or lack of features) that would have affected the car’s controllability and crashworthiness. She also claims that if the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT had had a proper racing fuel cell, the vehicle wouldn’t have caught fire after the crash. The victims suffered severe burns as well as impact trauma.

Although Porsche is known for top-of-the-line automobiles, some car experts have independently said that the 2005 Carrera GT suffers from handling and stability problems. It will be interesting to see if these expert opinions will be sought if and when the lawsuit goes to trial.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, "Paul Walker crash victim's wife hits Porsche with lawsuit," May 13, 2014

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