Roger Rodas’ widow, Kristine, is suing Porsche, alleging that the Carrera GT that the racer-tuner and his famous friend, actor Paul Walker, was in has a history of defects and that it malfunctioned, causing the wreck that killed the two men.
Both Walker and Rodas were veteran race drivers and controversy surrounding their death after a charity party abounds. Apart from distant street camera footage, the only evidence of what happened is in the wreck itself, which offered few clues. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s report concluded that the car was traveling in excess of 90 mph down the 45 mph posted road. Rodas was driving the car, which he owned, with Walker, star of the Fast and Furious film franchise, though Walker had been a former owner of the GT.
When we originally analyzed the incident, based on the information at hand at that time, we concluded that the wreck was very likely caused by a tire rupture.
In her lawsuit, Kristine Rodas claims that the right rear tire suddenly steered left, giving the car a clockwise movement which caused it to climb the curb, swipe a tree and then hit a light pole and another tree. The passenger’s side hit at the end ruptured the gas tank, causing the massive fire that ultimately killed the two occupants. Her allegation is that the defect causing the left turn coupled with the car’s inadequate suspension system forced the out of control careen. She adds that the car also did not have proper crash safety features common to other vehicles on the road, such as a crash cage and fuel tank protection.
It should be noted that the car in question, which we analyzed in our earlier post, can be described as the widow Rodas does. By its nature, being a barely-legal street car meant mostly for track use, the Porsche Carrera GT lacks most of the equipment and niceties drivers generally expect in a modern vehicle. This is by design and those who own and operate the cars should be well aware of this. The car has a reputation for being a crash-prone death trap, thanks largely to that lack of safety and the fact that most of its owners are generally inexperienced wannabe race drivers. This does not, however, invalidate Mrs. Rodas’ points.
Her husband and Walker were both very experienced race car drivers and both had a long history with this particular car. Rodas, who was driving, had raced this particular car several times in amateur events and was intimately aware of its faults and lack of safety equipment. Although the Sheriff’s report says otherwise, neither Rodas nor Walker had a history of showboating or street racing their cars in public and neither was a “20-something hothead” by any means. Both were parents nearing middle age with highly successful careers and a strong sense of ethics and philanthropy. Neither was likely to waste a $500,000 car on stupid street stunts.
However, while we feel for the widow here, it’s also not very likely that the car is to blame for the accident either. At least, not the car’s maker. Porsche will probably defend itself by pointing to the evidence at hand, which blames the driver, and the fact that the car was far from out-of-the-factory stock. Any of a number of things could have gone wrong here, but very few of those could really be construed as being Porsche’s fault.
Cynical as it may seem, it’s our belief that the lawyer for Mrs. Rodas is hoping that the high profile nature of the wreck will be such a public relations concern for Porsche that they’ll settle out of court to avoid the publicity.