Trinity Industries is a Texas-based manufacturing company that produces, among other things, guardrail ends that are provided to transportation departments across the United States. In October 2014, a federal whistleblower case against Trinity resulted in a $525 million fraud verdict after a federal jury found that the company made false statements concerning a modified ET-Plus guardrail system.
Josh Harman, a guardrail installer and former Trinity competitor, discovered that Trinity had made cost-saving changes to equipment that compromised its safety without informing the United States Federal Highway Administration. Trinity sold the compromised guardrails to state governments who received federal reimbursement. Harman brought the case under the False Claims Act.
The investigation of Trinity products linked to fatalities did not end with the verdict. The Federal Highway Administration has opened an Internet portal allowing the public to report accidents tied to a Trinity Industries guardrail system. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., plans to press Trinity for accountability over ongoing undocumented changes to the ET-Plus.
Blumenthal joined the Federal Highway Administration in asking whether Trinity once again adjusted the dimension of the ET-Plus system. The change would be the third since the Trinity introduced it in 2000. The federal lawsuit forced Trinity to acknowledge making undisclosed changes to the system, but it appears that Trinity is making another secret version of the system according to Bloomberg News. It is the third revision that attracted Senator Blumenthal’s attention.
“I’m very concerned about a potential third version that may, in effect, conceal or cover up defects in the other versions that are still out on America’s roads. The possibility of additional changes raises the specter that what we thought was bad, could be even worse,” said Blumenthal in an interview.
Since a mistrial in June of 2014 and the verdict in October, national attention has been brought to Trinity Industries, resulting in at least nine additional personal injury and wrongful death suits as awareness of the issue has increased. More than 40 states and the District of Columbia have halted new installations of the system pending further tests.
Prior to the case, TDOT was unaware of any issues with the ET-Plus system and had installed the guardrail throughout the state. Metro has found that the city has 20 such terminals at 10 locations in use at the moment, while TDOT estimates that there are 12,900 on state roads and interstates. If you have been involved in an accident involving a guardrail, please contact us for a free consultation.