In June, Trinity Industries Inc. suffered a serious blow in their False Claims Act trial. A Texas federal judge slammed them with a $663 million fine for defrauding the federal government by providing defective guardrails that they presented as formerly approved versions. While the trial judge informed Trinity that they could present new evidence in an appeal if they decided to take such action, the company wasn’t happy with this decision.
Trinity claimed that because the damage award was so excessive and new reports had surfaced in their favor, they should be given a new trial to ensure they could adequately present the discovered evidence. Trinity is hoping to show that their ET-Plus guardrail system passed government crash tests, possibly helping to reduce their liability in the case.
U.S. District Judge Only Allows for Appeal
While Trinity was hoping to get a new trial with a fresh start, U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap didn’t believe there was any need for this. Instead, he stated that Trinity could try to get an appeal if they wanted to present this new evidence. The judge made it clear that the company hadn’t raised any new issues in their motion to warrant a new case, meaning their only option would be to pursue an appeal if they wanted to challenge the verdict against them.
Reviewing the False Claims Suit Against Trinity
Last year, Trinity endured a false claims suit that alleged they didn’t inform the Federal Highway Administration that they had changed the dimensions of their guardrail system, which notably caused a serious risk for injury if a driver collided into it. Previous systems designed by Trinity had worked appropriately, but the new system would fold over and create a spear-like piece of metal that shot through windshields and sides of vehicles when hit at a high speed.
There were also several other claims against them that went undisputed. During that trial, the judge hit Trinity with a $175 million verdict for changing the design of the guardrail without approval and also misrepresenting the changed guardrail as the early, safer version. The final judgment reached $663.4 million, which included a $199 for Joshua Harman, who was the whistleblower in the case. Adding in other expenses, Harman’s award was increased to more than $217 million. The remaining $464.4 million was awarded to the federal government.
New Evidence Could Allegedly Clear Trinity
The motion for a new trial submitted by Trinity claimed that 1,000 of their ET-Plus guardrail systems throughout the country had been carefully examined, with no evidence suggesting anything other than 100% federal compliance. In other words, Trinity is claiming that their allegedly dangerous devices haven’t violated any safety regulations.
Unsurprisingly, Trinity was not happy with being hit with a verdict in excess of $663 million and will like pursue an appeal of the case so that they can present their new evidence to avoid this payout.