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$175 Million Verdict in Trinity Industries Guardrail Case

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.