Judge declares mistrial in Trinity guardrail lawsuit case
A federal judge in Texas declared a mistrial in the possible billion-dollar whistleblower lawsuit involving guardrails that are found on many of our nation’s highways.
The whistleblower and former industry business owner, Joshua Harman, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the American public claiming that Trinity guardrails, the ET-Plus model, are dangerous and deadly. The lawsuit contends that the guardrails were never properly tested or properly approved by the government. The allegations against Trinity Industries Inc., one of the biggest guardrail makers in the U.S., include that the highway guardrail systems are a deadly hazard that can spear cars on impact.
According to Bloomberg News, Trinity first gained federal approval for its ET-Plus end terminal in 2000. Harman’s suit alleges that the company changed the dimensions of the ET-Plus sometime between 2002 and 2005 without telling federal authorities. Apparently, Trinity modified an energy-absorbing end terminal, a steel mechanism that is mounted on the end of a guardrail. Instead of acting like a shock absorber, the lawsuit claims that Trinity’s modified ET-Plus can lock up, behaving more like a giant shiv.
There are at least nine personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits pending against the company. The mistrial was called after allegations of witness tampering were lodged against the president of Trinity Highway products. The mistrial was declared less than a week into the trial.
According to ABC News, Trinity guardrails are installed throughout the country in all 50 states. The whistleblower said that there have been hundreds of accidents that resulted in more harm as a result of the guardrail.
Another victim suing Trinity is Jay Traylor, a motorist who lost both legs as the result of an accident in which he hit a Trinity guardrail. Traylor is one of the many who’ve sued, claiming Trinity made the design changes to the guardrail system and as a result, the terminal no longer functions as a safety device, but rather is impaling vehicles, causing serious injury and death.
Others are asking questions about the safety of the guardrails as well. According to Bloomberg News, a coalition of state highway officials is reviewing the performance of several end terminal models, motivated in part by complaints about the ET-Plus. The state of Nevada stopped installing ET-Plus terminals earlier this year, pending performance testing of the modified version.
Safety Research & Strategies Inc., a product-safety advocacy group filed separate suits seeking records related to the ET-Plus from the Department of Transportations Federal Highway Administration and from the Florida Department of Transportation. The group alleges broad “performance anomalies” with the ET-Plus since it was introduced.
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