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Automaker Blames Driver for Deadly Crash that Killed Actor

In car accidents, as in life, events often unfold as a result of a series of actions or inaction. What this means for accident lawyers is there is often more than one responsible party in these cases, and that’s why litigation stemming from a seemingly simple crash can end up being quite complex.

Take for example the case of 40-year-old actor Paul Walker. The handsome, popular actor was tragically killed in a fiery crash in a suburb of Los Angeles in 2013 after a charity event. An investigation revealed the 2005 Porsche Careera GT driven by Walker’s friend, a professional race car driver, careened out of control before slamming into a grouping of trees and a utility pole. The sports car ignited and both men died.

Coincidentally, Walker was in the midst of his seventh installment of a successful movie series about illegal street racing of expensive sports cars.

Since then, the driver’s widow has filed a lawsuit against the auto manufacturer, who is based in Germany. Rodas v. Porsche Cars North America Inc. et al., alleges wrongful death, negligence, breach of implied warranty and strict products liability. She asserts her husband was an experienced driver and the reason the car crashed was due to mechanical failures. Specifically, she alleges there was a failure of a suspension component in the right rear wheel of the car, and further, the vehicle was not equipped with important safety features, such as a crash cage that would protect passengers from impact, and a fuel cell to prevent a fire.

Back in September, a federal judge indicated she was not specific enough in her claim that the car manufacturer made false statements regarding the vehicle’s safety. The judge dismissed most of her claims, but granted her leave to amend, which she did.

Now, the car manufacturer is arguing it wasn’t the vehicle that malfunctioned, but rather the driver who was operating the vehicle unsafely. It asserts the car wasn’t defective and all injuries or damages were the fault of the operator. Further, the company went so far as to allege the vehicle was “abused and altered” after purchase, to a degree the company alleges it couldn’t have foreseen and in a way that could have factored into the traffic collision. The company does not specify in records what kind of alterations may have been made or by whom.

Law enforcement investigators determined the crash was the result of the operator driving too fast. It was estimated he was operating the vehicle at 55 mph while rounding a curve.

However, it’s important to note that investigation was aided by engineers from the auto manufacturer. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to think that investigation might have been influenced by the defense in this case, or at the very least, that an independent investigation is warranted.

And even if the operator was traveling too fast for the road conditions, that might warrant a finding of comparative fault, but it would not necessarily block plaintiff from compensation, though it could reduce the total amount.

It does not appear at this juncture a representative of Walker’s estate has filed a lawsuit for wrongful death on behalf of his 15-year-old daughter, though certainly it seems a strong case could be made, potentially against at least two or possibly more defendants.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Porsche blames driver in crash that killed Paul Walker, April 1, 2015, by Ben Klayman, Reuters

More Blog Entries:

Golnick v. Callender – Proximate Cause of Injury Crucial in Crash Cases, April 5, 2015, Hollywood Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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