Film star Paul Walker died on November 30, 2013, while riding as a passenger in a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT driven by his friend, Roger Rodas.
A mid-engine 5.7 liter V10 engine powered Rodas' Porsche and allowed it to produced 612 hp and accelerate from 0-100 in under 7 seconds. While it’s incredibly fast, the 2005 GT lacks one of the most important safety features now standard in all new vehicles. Alternatively referred to as a stability management system or electronic stability control (ESC), this feature reduces the loss of traction and skidding by quickly and rapidly applying brakes to individual wheels as needed. Within milliseconds, a computer calculates the location where braking is needed.
In 2006, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggested that ESC “could prevent nearly one-third of all fatal crashes” and “reduce rollover risk by as much as 80%.”
Because the 2005 Porsche GT lacked stability control, could the estate of Paul Walker successfully bring a wrongful death or product liability suit against Porsche? According to an LA Times article, a similar suit resulted in Porsche paying the estate of a GT’s passenger 8% of a $4.5 million settlement after that individual died in a wreck in 2005. According to the Times article, one Porsche engineer testified in his deposition that an ESC system would not have worked on the vehicle because of the level of vibration the vehicle produces. Nevertheless, according to a various news reports today, Porsche send a letter to its dealers warning that the GT had “all the disadvantages of a racecar.” By doing so, they acknowledged many of the risks associated with the vehicle.
While it's unclear whether Walker's heirs will file a lawsuit against Porsche, there certainly appears to be some precedent and possible legal grounds for bringing a suit. One difference between the two crashes is that the 2005 crash occurred on a racetrack whereas Walker's crash reportedly occurred in a 45 mph zone on a public street. So Porsche may be able to deflect much or all liability on the driver.