Trinity Industries was ordered by the Federal Highway Administration to conduct new crash tests of its ET-Plus guardrail end terminal after a jury found that Trinity had defrauded the government of $175 million when Trinity secretly redesigned the device. Studies in two states have shown that the ET-Plus is nearly 4 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than its predecessor design, the Trinity ET-2000.
More than 30 states have now banned the Trinity ET-Plus guardrail end terminal (sometimes called an “end cap”).
Media and safety advocates have requested to attend the new tests. So far, Trinity has refused.
Jerry Eller, a spokesman for Trinity, said only representatives of the FHA, state DOTs and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials will be allowed to view the tests, which will be conducted in San Antonio, Texas.
– ABC 13, Norfolk, Virginia
The tests are scheduled to take place later this month.
$175 Million Guardrail Verdict Stands
In related news, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied an appeal which asked the Court to vacate the trial court’s $175 million judgment against Trinity Industries. Trinity argued that the False Claims Act did not apply because the guardrail still qualified for federal reimbursement.
This is the second time Trinity had asked the 5th Circuit to overturn the verdict. The 5th Circuit denied the petition without opinion.
What’s the Problem with Trinity ET-Plus Guardrails?
Guardrail end terminals are supposed to absorb the brunt of an impact and turn the rail itself away from the striking vehicle like a ribbon. However, in 2005, Trinity secretly began to work on modifications to its ET-Plus, which reduced the width of the guide rail/feeder chute from 5-inches to 4-inches (a 20% reduction). Trinity made these design changes with no notice to the FHWA or any state governments that purchased the ET-Plus.
These critical changes interfered with the proper deformation of the guardrail. The ET-Plus’s altered design causes the rail to fold back, turning the rail into a spear that will slice right through a car or truck.
Why the change? Money. Trinity said it saved about $2.00 per end terminal, resulting in $50,000 in savings per year.
Trinity Guardrail Lawsuits
A study by the University of Alabama-Birmingham in conjunction with The Safety Institute and the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission found the ET-Plus performed more poorly than other guardrail end terminals. The UAB study looked at 8 years of data in Missouri and Ohio involving five different end terminal designs. The study concluded that the Trinity ET-Plus “placed motorists at a higher risk of both serious injury and death relative to its predecessor, the ET-2000.”
There have been numerous lawsuits filed across the country against Trinity due to injuries and deaths involving the ET-Plus end terminal. Langdon & Emison represents a number of clients across the country in cases involving defective Trinity guardrails. As states continue to evaluate the guardrail’s performance and new information is learned about Trinity’s fraud, more lawsuits will follow.
- Guardrail Death in Delaware Just Days After State Bans Trinity ET-Plus
- Emison Interviewed for 20/20 Investigation of Defective Trinity Guardrails
- Kent Emison Interviewed for 20/20 Investigation of Defective Guardrails
- Kent Emison Discusses Trinity Guardrail Lawsuits With CBS Affiliate
- Virginia Plans to Remove Guardrails Blamed for Injuries, Deaths [Cindy Galli, Brian Ross, and Lee Ferran at ABC News]
© Copyright 2014 Brett A. Emison
Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter.
Brett Emison is currently a partner at Langdon & Emison, a firm dedicated to helping injured victims across the country from their primary office near Kansas City. Mainly focusing on catastrophic injury and death cases as well as complex mass tort and dangerous drug cases, Mr. Emison often deals with automotive defects, automobile crashes, railroad crossing accidents (train accidents), trucking accidents, dangerous and defective drugs, defective medical devices.