This week marks the two year anniversary of the death of The Fast and the Furious star Paul Walker. The actor died in a car crash on November 30th, 2015. Since his death, both his daughter, Meadow, and his father, Paul Walker Sr., have filed wrongful death suits against Porsche, the maker of the car he died in.
A source tells me, exclusively, that the Walkers' cases against Porsche will be very difficult to prove. While the suits allege Walker's death was caused by Porsche's faulty vehicle design, Porsche has argued the true cause of the accident was speed, plain and simple.
The car that Walker was a passenger in had been modified after the factory with speed and power enhancements. Since it was modified for racing after it was produced by Porsche, this takes away from the likelihood of his family prevailing in a product liability case.
The single biggest mistake made in this case was in the very beginning when the Walker family's attorneys allowed Porsche to examine the car. Porsche flew out their German engineers right after the accident and their conclusion was that there was nothing wrong with the car. The problem is since Porsche experts examined the car before anyone else got to it, they took it apart, so even if a subsequent plaintiffs' expert came on the scene to examine it, the car had already been disassembled. As a result, it will be difficult for the Walker family to prove the car had a faulty design because any subsequent examination by their experts will be called into question. Their examination is not based on the car as preserved after the accident, but follows the disassembling of the car by defense engineers.
As for why Paul's daughter Meadow, and his father, Paul Sr., have separate suits, there are two possible reasons. Normally, the heir's wrongful death suit and the estate's suit are brought together by the same attorney. It's very unusual to see a minor with her own attorney and an adult bringing a separate action in the name of the estate. This could mean there is family drama in the background. The other reason is that when Meadow, as Paul's heir, files a wrongful death suit, she cannot get damages for her father's pain and suffering. However, when the estate brings a claim for wrongful death, the estate is entitled to get pain and suffering damages, meaning an expert would testify that for a period of time after the accident Paul was still alive and he was trapped and couldn't get out. Thus, his estate should be compensated for his pain and suffering.
While the suits against Porsche may not be successful, if Walker's estate were to sue Roger Rodas' estate, that case would likely result in a high settlement because Rodas, the driver, was speeding and his reckless speeding caused Walker's death. However, there could be exclusions on the insurance policy preventing Walker from suing Rodas. Further, Rodas' estate's attorneys could argue Walker was encouraging Rodas to speed up, contributing to his own death.
Alternatively, there was a claim shortly after the accident that the City of Valencia had put cones along the street to prevent other cars from getting onto the roadway and that Rodas crashed because he swerved to avoid the cones. The issue would then be whether the city was negligent in putting up the cones - that's another possible suit that could stem from this accident.
In conclusion, it is doubtful Porsche will pay Walker's family anything, and if they do, it will be in a confidential settlement. If Rodas' insurance policy doesn't exclude Walker's estate from suing, then his insurance carrier could pay out a large sum of money for Walkers loss of earnings. Finally, suing the city for negligence is another option for the Walker family.