On October 21, 2014, a jury found Trinity Industries, the company that
produces thousands of safety guardrails for highways across America, of
defrauding the U.S. government and secretly changing the designs of their
product. The verdict stated that Trinity would pay $175 million in damages
to the government, a figure that is predicted to triple by statutory mandate.
The Dangers of the ET-Plus
In 2005, Trinity made changes to their guardrail design without notifying
the Federal Highway Administration. The new design, called the ET-Plus,
removed an inch of material from the original structure, saving an estimated
$2 per guardrail. Guardrails are designed to curl out and away when collided
into, but Trinity’s new design failed to recreate this simple safety
mechanic and instead creates an unyielding metal rod that penetrates through
colliding vehicles. This one inch change caused numerous injuries and
deaths across the country, leaving hundreds seeking justice.
Beginnings of the Lawsuit
Josh Harman, a competitor to Trinity Industries, discovered the change
in design and brought the case to the court’s attention. Along with
the secret design changes coming to light, evidence was discovered that
indicated Trinity knew about the danger their product created as well
as a crash test video that clearly shows a car receiving severe amounts
of damage after colliding with the new guardrail. Trinity claims that
their design passed safety regulations and any omitted information was
done so without intent.
For more information about Trinity Industries’ case, read about it in our
Recent Victories page.