Jury awards $175 million in Trinity Guardrail Case
Trinity Industries, the maker of highway guardrails, was found by a jury on Monday to have defrauded the federal government. The jury in Texas, found Trinity liable in the civil lawsuit for violating the False Claims Act, according to CNBC. The jury said that those violations caused the U.S. Government to incur $175 million in damages, as the federal government helps state transportation departments purchase approved products, including Trinity guardrail products, for use on highways across the country. Under the federal False Claims Act, the verdict amount would be tripled to $525 million.
The case was filed by Joshua Harman, a competitor who discovered that in 2005, the company had made changes to a piece of steel in the front of the guardrail without alerting the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), as is required. Harman’s lawsuit claimed the modifications made by Trinity could be deadly. Trinity’s new design reduced the width of the steel channel behind the rail head from 5 inches to 4. CNBC reported that according to the lawsuit, Trinity falsely certified that the modified ET-Plus guardrail was approved for federal reimbursement. As a result, the government paid millions of dollars to reimburse states for buying these devices that were not approved.
The Dallas News reported that following the verdict; the Federal Highway Administration demanded that Trinity submit the ET-Plus guardrail terminals to further safety testing. The FHWA said it might suspend or revoke eligibility of federal funding if Trinity does not submit a crash testing plan by October 31
Four states have banned new installations of the Trinity end terminal on their highways, citing ongoing investigations. Trinity faces more than a dozen personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that allege the ET-Plus contributed to injury or death.
The product in question is a 175-pound steel mechanism that mounts onto the end of a guardrail and is meant to cushion the impact of a crashing car. According to lawsuits, instead of acting as a shock absorber, Trinity’s revised version can become jammed, acting as a spear and can impale oncoming vehicles.
Although the original ET-Plus was crash-tested and federally approved, the modified version was never properly tested or disclosed to the government. The modified guardrail was the subject of ABC News “20/20” investigation in September that looked into allegations from crash victims that the modified guardrail malfunctioned when struck from the front by their vehicles’. 20/20 found that rather than ribboning out and absorbing the impact as designed, the guardrails “locked up” and speared straight through the cars, severing the motorists limbs in some cases.
According to ABC News, they obtained an internal email where a Trinity official wrote that one particular design change, the shrinking of a metal piece in the end terminal from five to four inches, would save the company $2 per guardrail or $50,000 a year. ABC reported that the company also admitted that it had “inadvertently omitted” the required documentation that was to be submitted to the FHWA regarding the change.
If you have been injured in an accident involving a Trinity guardrail or another car or truck accident, the personal injury lawyers at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys can help. We’ve represented thousands of accident victims and their families in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Call Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys today for a free consultation. Call 855-866-5529
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Posted in Product Liability & Recalls.