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Before being installed on highways across the country in 1999, the guardrail design was vigorously tested and proven to work, even if it was hit head-on at high speed. Trinity followed the design formulated by Texas A&M engineers for the first few years. But in 2005, Trinity reduced the width of ET-Plus end terminal of the guardrail by one inch, a seemingly minor change that has had devastating consequences.
The design change is apparently responsible for multiple deaths and multiple injuries from hundreds of wrecks, including amputated legs and internal organ damage, plaintiffs’ lawyers claim. In February, a man’s legs were sheered from him in a crash in North Carolina. At least ten plaintiffs and their surviving families have already sued Trinity.
ABC 20/20 uncovered Trinity’s internal email that stated cutting one inch off the ET-Plus saved the company $2.00 per unit. “That’s $50,000 a year and $250,000 in 5 years by using the 4″ channel,” the memo reads.
This sounds like GM’s refusal to pay 57 cents to fix the defective ignition switch in its vehicles, leading to thousands of injuries and several hundred deaths, when another major corporation chose to put profits over safety.
Did the Company Hide the Problem?
Manufacturers of roadway materials are required to report changes in designs to the
Federal Highway Administration. This allows the transportation agency to determine whether the alterations affect safety. Trinity did not
disclose the 2005 changes it made to the guardrails, the plaintiff alleges, and has presented false claims to the federal government amounting to several hundred million dollars. This figure that could be trebled if he is successful, in addition to an award for attorney’s fees. Harman might receive as much as 30% of that amount.
the redesign only came to light when Trinity sued Harman, a competing
manufacturer, for patent infringement in 2011. The defendant in the
patent lawsuit discovered the unreported redesign while reviewing
specifications the company had submitted to the federal government in
preparation of a patent infringement defense. The defendant immediately
reported his discovery to the FHA. The case was settled out of court for a confidential amount. Trinity also sued Harman for defamation and sought an injunction to silence his claims.
These Defective Guardrails Remain on the Highways Across the U.S.
The federal government has not removed these dangerous defective guardrails to date, putting drivers at continued risks of catastrophic injuries
and death. There are an estimated one half million miles of defective Trinity
guardrails on U. S. highways The Safety Institute
is conducting independent studies about the safety risks that may
prompt action by federal and state officials to force removal of these dangerous
obstacles on our nation’s roads.
Each side again has 13 hours to present its testimony. The case could be concluded by the end of the week. Plaintiff’s attorneys are from the law firm led by well-known New York attorney David Boies, perhaps best known for representing Al Gore at the end of the 2000 presidential election, and from the firm led by John Ward, the former judge of the court.
The lawsuit is Joshua Harman, on behalf of the United States vs. Trinity Industries, Inc., 2:12-cv-00089.
Were You Injured in a Highway Accident?
If you were seriously injured or lost your loved one because of a defective guardrail, call our Dallas-Fort Worth personal injury law firm at 817-885-8000 or toll-free at 1-888-801-8585 to schedule a free case evaluation.