What do the results of the whistleblower lawsuit against Trinity Industries mean for those who’ve been injured or killed by these guardrails?
Trinity Industries has been in the news over the last couple of years (we’ve even blogged on it before) thanks to the actions of a whistleblower who accused the company and its owner of defrauding the Federal Highway Administration with its ET-Plus guardrail end terminal system.
These system is design to absorb the impact of a car moments after an accident. The accuser, a Mr. Joshua Harman, filed the case under the False Claims Act, alleging that Trinity made changes to the guard rail design back in 2005 without informing the federal government.
$175 million verdict.
Last week the court read out the verdict, ordering Trinity Industries to make available the guardrail terminals it sold to highway departments dating back to as early as 1999 in order to have them tested for safety. In addition, a Texas jury awarded the United States Treasury and Mr. Harman $175 million, an amount that will be tripled to $525 under federal law.
Trinity said that it would appeal, while the presiding judge is set to determine how many false claims the company made and then institute statutory penalties for each false claim for amounts ranging from $5,000 to $12,000.
Despite the fact that all states are personally responsible for their infrastructure, the federal agency plays an important role in determining which products qualify for reimbursement dollars. To date, there have been about 14 lawsuits brought forward relating to guard rail system failure. In addition, there have been at least 5 deaths and multiple injuries attributed to the guardrail design.
Trinity allegedly made these changes in order to save about $2 on each guardrail. Mr. Harman also said that these changes were irreversible, making the guardrails ineffective in stopping vehicles and absorbing energy at the time of an accident.
The safety of the traveling public is paramount.
The safety of the traveling public is something that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the state department of transportation take seriously. The lawsuit brought by Mr. Harman, and the tests mandated by the FHWA on Trinity’s guardrail system will improve safety for all road users.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced Monday, October 27th, that the State of Texas is joining 15 other states by discontinuing the use of the ET-Plus for new installations until further notice.
Victims who were injured or killed as a result of the failure of one of these guardrails are encouraged to contact an accident attorney as soon as possible. These victims (and their families) may now have new avenues in which to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death claim and recover the money they are truly owed.