The widow of the man behind the wheel of the Porsche Carrera GT that crashed and killed actor Paul Walker last year has sued the car manufacturer, alleging that faults with the design and suspension led to the fatal crash.
The lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of Roger Rodas’ widow, Kristine Rodas, also contradicts a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department's report that found the sports car was traveling at an unsafe speed of more than 90 mph along a road in a Santa Clarita business park.
Both men died within seconds of the crash.
The suit alleges that the $500,000 vehicle was going just 55 mph on Nov. 30, 2013, when it “malfunctioned” and crashed, wrote attorney Mark Geragos.
The lawsuit contends that the right rear tire suddenly steered to the left and that despite the efforts of Rodas, a veteran race car driver, the vehicle continued a clockwise movement before climbing the curb, swiping a tree and then hitting a light pole and a second tree.
The car then hit a third tree on the passenger side, causing the vehicle to split and catch fire.
Geragos alleges the car’s suspension system forced it to careen out of control. The lightweight construction in the 605-horsepower vehicle described by Porsche as "close to a race car as we will ever get” lacked a proper crash cage and safety features in the gas tank that would have saved Rodas and Walker, Geragos wrote in the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit.
The impact of the crash caused the fuel tank to rupture and spill fuel into the engine compartment, the suit said.
"The Carrera GT was unsafe for its intended use by reason of defects in its manufacture, design, testing, component and constituents, so that it would not safely serve its purpose," according to the suit.
Rodas' family is seeking unspecified damages from Porsche Cars North America.
The sheriff’s and CHP reports released in March found unsafe speed and not mechanical problems was responsible for deadly crash. Investigators reached those conclusions after consulting with Porsche technicians.
The vehicle is known to be difficult to drive.
"Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, a veteran super-car driver, spun a Porsche Carrera GT at 180 to 190 mph at Talledega. "It was kind of like driving on ice," Leno said on his Jay's Garage website. Leno, however, praised the vehicle for its engine built for Le Mans and incredible gearbox.
The car was the subject of a lawsuit after a 2005 crash that claimed the lives of two men at the California Speedway when they swerved into a concrete wall.
In 2006, Porsche contributed 8% of a $4.5-million settlement after owner Ben Keaton and his passenger, Corey Rudl, died. They swerved to avoid a collision with a slower-moving Ferrari that had entered the track, according to records and attorneys. Rudl's widow sued the track, Keaton's estate and the car manufacturer in San Diego Superior Court.
They settled without acknowledging any wrongdoing. Porsche says the car is safe.
Craig McClellan, the San Diego-based personal injury attorney representing Rudl's widow, argued that Porsche was partly to blame for the crash because it knew the car had a history of over-steering problems during development and the company designed it without an electronic stability control system.
"It is a fairly stripped-down car designed for the race track," McClellan said.