LOS ANGELES (CN) - Race car driver Roger Rodas' widow cannot prove that Porsche is responsible for the deaths of Rodas and "The Fast and the Furious" star Paul Walker in a fiery car crash, a federal judge ruled.
Roger Rodas and Walker were killed on Nov. 30, 2013 after Rodas' 2005 Porsche Carrera GT - capable of 205 mph - slid out of control while turning a corner at high speed, hitting two trees and a lamppost before coming to rest in two pieces and bursting into flames after hitting a third tree.
The crash happened in Santa Clarita, California, after the men left an event for an organization with which Rodas was involved. Witnesses testified that the car was going "fast" and "sucking asphalt" as it traveled northbound on Kelly Johnson Parkway and negotiated a sweeping right curve as the parkway turns into Hercules Street, according to a witness report.
An autopsy showed Rodas sustained three sets of injuries including head dislocation from his spinal column, skull fractures on the right side of his head - possibly from colliding with Walker's head - multiple rib fractures that punctured his lungs, and contusions with associated "hemothorax and mediastinal shift" most likely caused by impact with the interior panel of Rodas' car door.
His wife Kristine filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Porsche Cars North America in May 2014. Her second amended complaint also asserted product liability claims based on four alleged defects she said made the Porsche Carrera GT unsafe, including failure of a suspension component, absence of a crash cage, substandard side-impact protection and lack of a fuel cell that might have prevented the car from catching fire.
Porsche removed the case to Federal Court, making a subsequent motion for summary judgment in December 2016.
U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez granted the motion in its entirety on April 4, citing Kristine Rodas' concession that the fire, allegedly caused by the lack of a fuel cell, did not cause Rodas' or Walker's deaths. She also conceded that the lack of a crash cage and alleged substandard side-impact protection did not contribute to the men's injuries.
Gutierrez rejected the claim that the crash was caused by a faulty suspension component because Kristine Rodas could not show that it "actually failed and caused the accident."
"Defendant has carried its summary judgment burden by demonstrating that plaintiff failed to offer any admissible evidence from which a jury could reasonably find that this accident was caused by a broken toe-adjustor rod," Gutierrez said in a 13-page order. "In opposing defendant's motion, plaintiff points only to new expert opinion which the court finds inadmissible. Plaintiff has failed to raise a triable issue of fact on the issue of causation, an essential element of its claim. Defendant is therefore entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's strict liability design defect claims premised on failure of the suspension component,"
He added that summary judgment on the plaintiff's wrongful death and survival claims are also appropriate based on the same reasoning.
"Plaintiff has provided no competent evidence that Rodas' death occurred as a result of any wrongdoing on the part of defendant," Gutierrez said.
The attorney for Porsche Cars, Stephen Waimey of Lee Hong Degerman Kang & Waimey in Newport Beach, California was not immediately available for comment.
Attorney for Kristine Rodas, Mark Geragos of Geragos & Geragos in Los Angeles, did not immediately return a phone call requesting comment.
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