By Jay Ramey, Crain News Service
LOS ANGELES (Oct. 8, 2015) — The daughter of actor Paul Walker, Meadow Walker, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against defendants Porsche Cars of North America and Beverly Hills Porsche, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Mr. Walker was killed on Nov. 30, 2013, along with friend Roger Rodas when a Porsche Carrera GT driven by Mr. Rodas skidded off the road and hit a tree and a lamp pole. The crash occurred in a business park just outside of Los Angeles during the Thanksgiving break from the filming schedule of Mr. Walker's last film, “Furious 7.”
According to the complaint filed by Mr. Walker's daugher, Porsche knew that the model in question had a history of instability, but did not add a control system to remedy that issue, the Los Angeles Times reports. The suit also alleged that the placement of the shoulder belt anchor contributed to the injuries suffered by Mr. Walker during the crash. Specifically, the suit alleges that when the car was fractured during the impact, the shoulder belt was pulled along with the rear engine compartment while the seat belt anchor remained in place.
“This snapped Walker's torso back with thousands of pounds of force, thereby breaking his ribs and pelvis, flattening his seat and trapping him in a supine position, where he remained alive until the vehicle erupted into flames one minute and 20 seconds later,” the lawsuit reportedly states.
The suit also alleges a lack of adequate fittings for a fuel hose, which the suit claims allowed it to break free in the crash, thereby enabling the car to catch fire. Porsche is also cited as having used side door reinforcement bars that were made from a weaker material than in more common cars in an effort to save weight.
The official investigation in the weeks following the crash determined that Messrs. Walker and Rodas were killed almost instantly, with Mr. Walker succumbing to injuries from the impact and burns while Mr. Rodas was killed on impact.
The authorities used footage from closed-circuit security cameras and the car's computers to determine that the Porsche Carrera GT was traveling at 93 mph when it left the road. The investigation noted that both were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident, and that both airbags were triggered and deployed during the crash. The remains of the two men were found in a “pugilistic” stance inside the burnt remains of the car, as if they had been bracing for the impending crash.
By contrast, the lawsuit alleges that the Porsche was traveling at 63 to 71 mph during the crash.
The investigators also noted that the car was operating on tires that were nine years old, and that this fact contributed to the crash, though they did not state to what degree tire age increased the severity of the crash.
Skid marks on the pavement near the crash scene were examined as part of the investigation. The age of the tires, in any eventuality, was not cited as the cause of the crash — the detectives investigating the crash consulted with Porsche engineers and determined that mechanical problems were not the cause of the accident.
“Investigators determined the cause of the fatal solo-vehicle collision was unsafe speed for the roadway conditions,” commander Mike Parker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said upon the completion of the investigation, which took several weeks.
At the time, Porsche also issued a statement to address rumors and speculation that the crash was the result of a mechanical or design fault possessed by the Carrera GT.
“We appreciate the meticulous analysis by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the California Highway Patrol,” Porsche said in a statement distributed to the media. “It is a sad day for us whenever anyone is injured in one of our cars, and this was a particularly tragic event.
“At the same time, the results of the investigation show that, according to all the available evidence, this crash was caused by dangerous driving at speeds much too high for the road in question. There is also evidence that this particular vehicle had been altered from its original design state and had not been maintained properly.
“However, there is no evidence of any mechanical malfunction. We stand by our Carrera GT and by the investigation and conclusions of the responsible authorities.”
At the time of the initial investigation, authorities were also able to rule out the involvement of another vehicle, which was rumored to have been racing Messrs. Walker's and Rodas' Porsche. The authorities were able to piece together traffic movement in the area in the minutes prior to the crash which revealed that the Carrera GT was alone when traveling through the business park. A number of people from the nearby charity event Messrs. Walker and Rodas had attended heard the crash and converged on the scene minutes later, after the car had already caught fire.
This story appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.