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Trinity Guardrail

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 Email
Internal Trinity Email


Trinity Guardrail Lawsuits

Trinity - JKE - 20-20
Langdon & Emison partner, Kent Emison, discusses Trinity guardrail failures on ABC’s 20/20 news program

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.

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© Copyright 2014 Brett A. Emison

Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter.

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