Fast and Furious star Paul Walker’s father recently filed suit against Porsche for the actor’s death, alleging that the Carrera GT in which Walker and friend Roger Rodas were killed was unsafe.
Walker, of Fast and Furious fame, was killed in an auto accident in 2013 as a passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT driven by one of his friends, Roger Rodas. Paul Walker’s estate filed suit against Porsche in Los Angeles Superior Court. Walker’s father, Paul William Walker III is the estate’s personal representative.
The suit, similar to one filed on behalf of Walker’s minor daughter and sole heir, Meadow. It claims that the vehicle was unsafe and, had Porsche taken proper precautions, Paul Walker would have survived when the vehicle struck a light pole. Walker’s father argues that Porsche’s ads claimed the car was “a racing car licensed for use on the road,” but that it “lacked safety features that are found on well-designed racing cars or even Porsche’s least expensive road cars.”
Specifically, the suit points to the lack of electronic stability control and alleges that the reinforcements used in the side doors consisted of weaker material than that used in mass-market cars like the Honda Civic. Perhaps most disturbing is the claim that the seat belt design caused Walker to be trapped after impact and that he was alive for 1 minute 20 seconds before the car burst into flames.
Porsche has declined to comment on the recent suit, though it had filed a motion in Meadow’s suit blaming Walker and Rodas for their own deaths. The suit alleges that Rodas was moving at between 63 to 71 miles per hour at the time of the accident. The police report from March 2014 provides contradictory information.
The report estimates the vehicle’s speed at closer to between 80 and 93 miles per hour. The cause of the accident is listed as traveling at unsafe speeds; the road had a posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators didn’t find any mechanical problems with the car, but did note that it had an after-market exhaust system, which allowed it to go faster.
Porsche’s stance in Meadow’s suit was that Walker was a “knowledgeable and sophisticated user” of such vehicles and that he was aware of the risks and dangers that went along with riding in the car. Porsche’s response alleges that the car was also “abused and altered,” in addition to being improperly maintained, after it was sold. If true, this could provide Porsche with another point in its defense.
While I find Walker’s death to be a sad, even tragic event, I question the validity of these suits.
If the car had been altered and wasn’t properly cared for, this surely mitigates some of Porsche’s liability. Rodas was also driving at excessively high speeds, almost twice the posted limit for that particular roadway. This is a huge point in Porsche’s favor. While the product may have been advertised as “a racing car licensed for use on the road,” surely a reasonable person would know that this doesn’t mean one should violate speed limits. This becomes even more important if Porsche’s allegations of Walker’s being a “knowledgeable and sophisticated user” are true.
While I feel for the family, I find it hard to support a product liability suit in this issue. It’s akin to me suing GE because I was burned grabbing a pan from a 350F oven without an oven mitt. The oven performed as it should have, but my use of the oven was careless. The reasonable person would know better and I, as an experienced cook, would be held to an even higher standard of care.