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Trinity Defrauded the Federal Government, Texas Jury Finds
Another giant corporation has been found guilty of massive fraud that has endangered the lives of Americans.
Trinity Industries had a government contract to make highway guardrails that were supposed to protect car crash victims from serious injuries. But in 2005 the company changed the design without notifying the Federal Highway Administration — probably to cut expenses and increase profits. I wrote about the trial last week.
As a result of the alteration, the guardrails sliced through automobiles, sometimes severely injurying or killing the occupants.
Yesterday a jury in federal court in Marshall found that Trinity Industries defrauded the federal government. The jury awarded $175 million, which will be tripled to $525 million under federal statutes. The whistleblower, Joshua Harman, and the federal government will split the damages award.
In addition, the judge must determine the number of false claims and can impose penalties of $5,000 to $12,000 per count in addition to reimbursing the plaintiff for his attorney’s fees and expenses.
Trinity Industries Manufactured Dangerous Guardrails
The lawsuit was brought over Trinity’s undisclosed changes to the ET-Plus railhead. The original design allowed the metal guardrail to collapse upon impact, sort of like an accordion, and pushed the metal pieces out of the way. The guardrail thus absorbed some of the force of a crashing vehicle.
Trinity cut one inch of steel from each railhead to save $2 per unit. The redesigned railhead jammed, causing the guardrail to pierce the body of the automobile like a spear and putting occupants at risk of catastrophic injuries. At least five deaths and numerous severe injuries have been linked to the defective guardrails. Injuries include foot and leg amputations and internal organ damage.
Trinity had a duty to disclose any design changes immediately to the government. The company claims that its failure to disclose the altered ET-Plus design was inadvertent. Frighteningly, had Trinity not sued its competitor, the whistleblower Joshua Harman, the dangerous defect might never have come to light. Mr. Harman discovered the redesign while preparing his defense against Trinity’s intellectual property infringement allegations.
States Ban Use of Trinity Guardrails
Since the defect was discovered, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada and Virginia have banned Trinity guardrails from their highways. Vermont is also considering appropriate action. However, the federal agency has shockingly continued to approve ET-Plus, as have most other states, including Texas.
Based on the substantial evidence, Texas should immediately replace the guardrails with the original safe design, as should every state in the country. Texas residents should not tolerate one more death or injury from this dangerous highway condition.
Were You Injured In an Automobile or Truck Collision?
Learn about your rights if you were injured or a loved one was killed by a defective highway guardrail or in any other motor vehicle accident. Call our Dallas-Fort Worth personal injury attorney at 817-885-8000 or toll-free at 1-888-801-8585 or email here to schedule a free case evaluation today.