The estate of Roger Rodas has just filed a wrongful death suit against Porsche Cars North America, Inc. for his death while driving with the Fast and Furious star Paul Walker during a charity event in Santa Clarita, CA last year. The complaint, filed by Mark Geragos of Geragos & Geragos, states that a suspension component in the right rear wheel area of the powerful Carrera GT failed and asks for “strict liability; wrongful death.”
Hollywood’s Fast and Furious money machine and besotted, devastated fans have been desperate for clues for months. At first it was assumed intoxication was involved, then it was ruled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol that the two men died because of excessive speed. The report stated that, “The vehicle had no mechanical failure and all of the damage to the car was caused by the collision itself.” It was said at the time that the car hit a pole bearing a 45 MPH speed limit sign at 94 MPH.
The accident took place on Hercules Street–near an auto shop racing enthusiast Rodas owned called Always Evolving–that is a notorious spot for Hollywood stunt drivers to practice their dangerous moves. It’s no coincidence that he had set up business in an area the racing cognoscenti would know about. “It’s a signal to customers that you’re in with the initiates now,” says an insider. Read TV Mix‘s complete account of wild driving on Hercules Street and the dirty secrets of Hollywood stuntmen here.
The lawsuit takes great pains to show that Rodas was trained and professional race car driver–having driven in rallies for Pirelli and Porsche and the famous 25 hours at Thunderhill race– and that he was a devoted family man intent on raising cash for the victims of the South Asian Typhoon. The suit goes on to state that the crash happened when the car was only going 55 MPH.
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The suit states the Porsche had bragged about the supercar qualities of the Carrera GT but neglected to put race car quality protections into it. Beyond the failure of the rear axel component it cites the lack of an adequate crash cage. “If the crash cage was properly functioning, there would not have been an intrusion into the passenger compartment, the fuel tank would not have been compromised or ruptured, and the vehicle would not have broken in half in the final impact.” The suit goes on to say that Porsche was well aware of these dangers.
Porsche has faced a similar suit over the Carrera GT after a 2005 crash that killed two men (a driver and his passenger) on a California race track. The family the passenger won $4.5 million all told from various parties. $350,000 of that came from Porsche.
UPDATE: Porsche Cars North America issued a statement responding to the lawsuit, reiterating the results of the previous investigation: “We are very sorry for the Rodas and Walker family’s loss. 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.”
Read more: http://www.automobilemag.com/features/news/1405-report-widow-of-driver-in-paul-walker-crash-sues-porsche/#ixzz31cLHtOor
The trial featured sworn testimony from Posche experts about a design flaw in the Carrera: it didn’t have the Porsche Stability Management System which corrects for the rear end losing control. It is unclear whether Roda’s Carrera had the PSMS installed.
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Walker, 40, was in five of the six films made by director Justin Lin, set in a world of fast cars doing spectacular stunts, playing law enforcement officer Brian O’Conner. The film franchise began in 2001 and all six of the films star Vin Diesel. Universal studios said a seventh film is in development after the most recent grossed almost $800 Million worldwide in May.
Walker is not named as a party in the suit and there is no word yet on whether a similar wrongful death suit will be filed by his estate. The Rodas demand for jury trial does not name specific damage amounts it is asking for.
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