We have written a number of times about the ET-Plus guardrail manufactured by Trinity Industries. Many states around the country have stopped using the guardrails after a study out the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering showed the guardrails caused significantly more fatalities and injuries than other guardrails when impacted by an oncoming car.
At issue is a minor change in the design of the guardrail. In 2005, Trinity Industries reduced the width of the guardrail by a single inch. The change was made because the manufacturer expected to save about $2 on every rail head. While the design change may seem trivial, injuries and fatalities have increased by 186% since the design change. Investigations showed that the slight modification has made the guardrail prone to slicing through cars and injuring passengers in the cab. The previous design would slide along the rail and help curl out of the way of the vehicle.
Lawsuit Filed Against Trinity Industries
The issue with the new design was first notified to federal regulators by a competitor of Trinity Industries, who brought a lawsuit against Trinity Industries under the False Claims Act. The lawsuit alleged that Trinity Industries made the design change in 2005 and failed to notify the Federal Highway Administration, which it is required by law to do so.
The case was being heard in a Texas court in October. On October 20, a jury found that Trinity Industries did, in fact, defraud the federal government and should be held liable for fraud. The jury awarded the plaintiff $175 million, which under federal law is tripled to $525 million. The award would be split between the federal government and the plaintiff.
Trinity Industries disputed the verdict and promised to file an appeal, but on October 28, a federal judge ordered Trinity Industries and the plaintiff to mediation in hopes that they could reach an agreement on an equitable settlement amount before the end of the year. If they are unable to do so, Trinity Industries is expected to move forward with the appeals process, which could tie the case up in court for years to come.
More Lawsuits Filed
There have already been 14 other lawsuits filed against the guardrail manufacturer that allege they are liable for accidents that resulted in five deaths and several other injuries.
If you were involved in a car accident and suffered injuries that you believe may have been caused by the ET-Plus guardrail, contact our experienced truck accident lawyers for help. Our team of lawyers and accident investigators can help you determine if the guardrail played a role in your injuries. If so, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation.