Damaging Porsche emails turn up in Paul Walker wrongful death suit

Attorneys for Paul Walker's daughter Meadow filed new documents in Los Angeles Superior Court this week saying that Porsche's North American division hid and redacted damaging  emails during the discovery phase of her wrongful death suit against the carmaker.

The motion file, obtained by USA TODAY, reveals that one of Walker's attorneys was reviewing documents on a CD-ROM on his iMac over the holidays when he discovered he was able to see portions that had appeared as redacted on his work-issued PC. The edited portions were not protected work product or attorney-client privilege; rather, they were the "exact type of information" that Porsche had been ordered to produce.

One email referred to the accident rate for the rare model that Walker was riding in when the car spun out of control, hit three trees and burst into flames. The Nov. 30, 2013 crash killed Walker and the driver, Roger Rodas.

"As many as 200 of the 1,200 Carrera GTs which Porsche produced had been 'totaled' in the first two years it was sold (2004-2006)," a statistic the author blithely noted while relaying the news that a body shop employee had crashed another vehicle into a telephone pole.

"Another Carrera GT bites the dust," he wrote. "Looks like he was going more than 30 (mph) to me!" He went on to ask if the numbers were correct because if so, it would be "great news to the remaining owners as the GT becomes more rare."

Other redacted material includes the identities of witnesses and marketing material about the Porsche Stability Management system, an electronic safety system that was intentionally left off the Carrera GT, which the German automaker marketed as a "supercar that can be driven every day." (Porsche enthusiasts jokingly refer to PSM as "Please Save Me.")

In 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ruled that stability control systems must be included in all cars sold in the USA by 2012. The feature, the name of which varies by manufacturer, uses electronic sensors linked to the braking system to slow the car and help the driver maintain control when traveling at speed, cornering or across slippery surfaces. That year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that it could prevent "nearly one-third of all fatal crashes and reduce rollover risk by as much as 80%."

After acknowledging the "high-profile deaths and lawsuits" involving the Carrera GT, auto journalist Doug DeMuro noted in a 2015 video profile, "No automaker with any sort of reasonable, decent legal department will ever go near anything like this again."

Lead attorney Jeffrey L. Milam concluded in his motion, "(Porsche) has demonstrated an intent and practice to conceal evidence and deny plaintiff access to critical and relevant information that is necessary for a full and fair trial. Plaintiff has no assurance this practice will cease, and based on (Porsche's) misconduct, plaintiff can no longer rely on any statements or representations by defense counsel."

Milam is moving for terminating sanctions, a form of reprimand handed down by the court when one side refuses to share evidence or hides it. Sanctions could range from a fine (the motion is asking for $53,000) all the way up to a default judgment for Meadow Walker, 18.

Last year, a judge ruled that Porsche was not at fault when the widow of the driver, Roger Rodas, sued, alleging the car's suspension had failed. That ruling did not affect Walker's suit against them.

Frank Wiesmann, a spokesman for Porsche Cars North America, told USA TODAY the company, "as a matter of policy, does not comment on litigation matters."

2017 USA Today


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