This week a California judge cleared Porsche of blame for the 2013 car crash that killed actor Paul Walker and former racecar driver Roger Rodas. The case was filed by Kristine Rodas, widow of Roger Rodas, and is one of several ongoing lawsuits regarding the deaths of the two men.
Paul Walker was 40 years old when he died on November 30, 2013 after his Porsche crashed. The driver, 38-year-old racing enthusiast Roger Rodas, lost control of the vehicle, careening the car into a lamp post. The crash caused a fire that consumed the car.
In her lawsuit Kristine Rodas claimed that the frame or “crash cage” of the car was insufficient to prevent injury from a crash and that the vehicle lacked key safety features for side impacts. Rodas also asserted that the structure of the fuel cell allowed for leaks during a crash, causing the fire to break out and that the suspension of the car failed.
The judge struck down every claim.
In his decision, US District Judge Philip Gutierrez ruled that the “plaintiff has provided no competent evidence that Rodas’ death occurred as a result of any wrongdoing on the part of defendant.” Judge Gutierrez found that the crash was head-on, not from the side and that there was no problem with the suspension.
The judge also ruled that there was “undisputed evidence” that Mr. Rodas did not die from the impact, but from the resulting fire. Though a racing fuel cell, a gas tank that molds around objects upon impact to prevent spillage, could have prevented a fire, the feature is only installed in racing cars. The Carrera in the crash was made as a street car without this special modification.
Rodas was driving well over the speed limit at the time of the crash. Reports range from 80mph to over 100mph.
This case is one of three filed against Porsche for the crash. Still pending are cases filed by Meadow Walker, the 17-year-old daughter of Paul Walker, and one filed by William Walker, Paul Walker’s father and the executor of the actor’s estate.
Meadow Walker’s attorney said her case against Porsche will continue despite the ruling with Porsche, citing that much of the evidence brought against the company was turned in late and affected the judge’s decision.
The teenage Walker had a second lawsuit over the death of her father against the estate of Roger Rodas, the driver of the car. Last week Meadow Walker was awarded $10.1 million from Rodas’ estate. In a statement, Meadow Walker’s attorney held that the $10.1 million is only a fraction of what Paul Walker would have earned over the rest of his lifetime as an international movie star.
The history of lawsuits against Porsche indicates that Meadow Walker might have a chance against the car company. One of the first personal injury lawsuits against a car company was against Porsche in the 1980’s. Though the driver was intoxicated and driving over the speed limit, Porsche was found liable for making a car that was uncontrollable for the average driver.
Rodas and Walker were also driving well over the speed limit, and as a racecar driver, Rodas was well above average in his driving skills.
There is still no court date set for the case.