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Vehicle defects alleged in widow’s suit over actor’s crash

A product can live up to its claims, be disappointingly imperfect or can be downright dangerous. When product makers knowingly sell products that cause harm, civil penalties are steep. Manufacturers are liable for defective products responsible for consumer injuries and deaths.

California law enforcement officials blamed high speed for the Santa Clarita deaths of actor Paul Walker and his friend Roger Rodas in a Porsche Carrera GT. Police consulted with Porsche to come to that conclusion. Now, Porsche Cars North America is facing a wrongful death lawsuit that disputes the car was safe and traveling at over 90 mph when it crashed.

Walker and Rodas, the driver, died when the Porsche went out of control, struck several trees and a utility pole and went up in flames. The legal action, filed for the benefit of Rodas's widow, blamed the car's faulty suspension system and other defects for the fatal accident. This isn't the first lawsuit Porsche has faced over the Carrera GT.

Porsche settled a claim over a 2005 fatality at the California Speedway. The car company paid a portion of a $4.5 million settlement, which also named the racetrack and the driver's estate in the lawsuit. Although Porsche settled without taking blame, the plaintiff's attorney argued that the car manufacturer knew the Carrera GT had over-steering difficulties and purposely designed it without an electronic stability control system.

Similar claims are being made in the current lawsuit. Kristine Rodas believes that the Porsche her husband drove had defective steering, which caused the car to veer left at 55 mph. The complaint alleges that the Carrera GT also lacked safety features that would have prevented a gas tank rupture and the men's deaths.

Compensation for product liability claims is available through settlements or damage awards. Whether something less than a trial is acceptable is a plaintiff's choice, based on the guidance of a legal adviser.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Porsche in Paul Walker crash was going only 55 mph, lawsuit claims" Richard Winton, May. 13, 201 

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