Trinity Industries, manufacturer of the ET-2000 and ET-Plus guardrails installed on highways throughout the U.S., has recently been ordered to pay $175 million in a whistleblower lawsuit filed against the company. According to the claim, Trinity defrauded the U.S. government by failing to inform the Federal Highway Administration of a design change in 2005 that allegedly increased the danger of the railhead on its guardrail, placing motorists at risk of injury or death.
ET-Plus Redesigned, Could
Increase Risk of Injury
The whistleblower on whose behalf the lawsuit was brought first found the design change while investigating a motor vehicle accident in Texas and asserted that the decrease in length of a metal part from five inches to four inches could increase the risk of injury in passengers whose vehicles collide with the guardrail. While the guardrail is reportedly intended to fold while absorbing the shock from the collision, the shortened metal component could jam and cause the railhead to act as a bayonet, slicing through the vehicle and its occupants. Internal documents obtained by ABC News suggest that the manufacturer made the change to save $50,000 annually by using less metal on the guardrail.
The guardrails have been installed in all 50 states in the U.S., and those who have been injured in car crashes involving the guardrail have begun to pursue claims against the manufacturer to seek compensation for their injuries. Lawsuits claim that the changes made to the ET-Plus guardrails were responsible for numerous injuries and five deaths in 14 collisions in several states, including Florida, Texas, Virginia, and Tennessee. Several lawsuits have been filed in Florida on behalf of those who have been injured allegedly due to defects with the guardrail.
Study Suggests ET-Plus Makes Death More Likely in an Accident
Researchers at The Science Institute analyzed data from car crashes in Missouri and Ohio between 2005 and 2014 to determine a potential relationship between the type of guardrail and the rate of injury or death. In each of the accidents, the “most harmful event” was determined to be contact with a guardrail. After investigating the incidents, the study found that the ET-Plus was 1.36 times more likely to cause injury than a previous model, the ET-2000, and 2.86 times more likely to result in a death.
While researchers found a significant sample that indicated that the design change in 2005 increased the risk of injury or death, they cautioned that further study is needed and that the conclusions and results that were found in this particular study involving Ohio and Missouri do not necessarily translate to similar results for other states. Still, the whistleblower maintains that the ET-Plus is the deadliest guardrail in use on U.S. highways and that Trinity was responsible for telling the FHA that it had altered the product’s design.
Texas Jury Finds Trinity Responsible
In the whistleblower lawsuit, Trinity was alleged to have made the change to the ET-Plus in 2005 but failed to tell the FHA of this change. On October 20, 2014, jurors in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas found Trinity liable and ordered the manufacturer to pay $175 million to resolve the case. Under the federal False Claims Act, the amount could triple to $525 million. While the majority of the award will go to the U.S. Treasury, the whistleblower by law will receive a portion of the settlement for his role in bringing the alleged fraud to light.
Individuals who believe they have been injured by a Trinity guardrail may be eligible to file a Florida Trinity guardrail lawsuit to seek compensation from the manufacturer. While the whistleblower lawsuit has been resolved, this does not bar potential plaintiffs from recovering damages for their own injuries. However, the time to file is limited, so it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as you think you may have a case.
File Your Florida Trinity Guardrail Lawsuit Today
Contact Attorney Group for Florida to learn more about filing a Florida Trinity guardrail lawsuit and recovering damages for your injuries. There are no out-of-pocket expenses, and we can help answer questions you may have. If you determine that you have a case, we can connect you to one of our affiliated attorneys who can file your Florida Trinity guardrail lawsuit on your behalf and help you to seek the compensation to which you may be entitled.