Texas Jury Finds Manufacturer of Faulty Guardrails Defrauded Taxpayers
Redesign of Faulty Guardrails Lead To False Claims Defrauding Taxpers Out of $175 Million
A Texas jury has found guardrail manufacturer Trinity Industries Inc., deliberately defraud the public and safety organizations by not notifying anyone of a design change of the shock-absorbing mechanisms mounted at the end of guardrails that resulted in numerous injuries. During an investigation Trinity claimed that most of the modified guardrails operated as intended, Business Week reports. The jury determined that Trinity’s false claims about the faulty guardrails defrauded U.S. taxpayers out of $175 million, the amount of federal reimbursements for the ET-Plus since 2006. The Federal Highway Administration gave Trinity 10 days to re-test the modified version. [http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-11-03/highway-official-stood-by-guardrail-system-amid-doubts#p3, December 2014]
Several serious injuries have been linked to the faulty guardrails. According to Business Week, the end cap can break off of the guardrail in high-speed crashes, driving the metal into the vehicle and causing serious injuries. One man who ran into the guardrail suffered one broken leg and one shattered leg when the guardrail pierced his vehicle. Over 18 suits have been filed against Trinity due to the faulty terminal designs. According to Business Week, the company is under fire for causing serious injuries in at least 14 people and the deaths of at least 8 others. 10 of these suits were filed in 2014. Trinity has stated, “We take any lawsuit against us seriously and will respond in the appropriate manner.”
Since 2012, the Federal Highway Administration has received dozens of concerned communication questioning the safety of the new guardrail design change and the shock-absorbing mechanisms mounted at the end of the guardrails did not perform the way they were intended to. According to Business Week, Trinity changed the design of the guardrail end caps by shortening the length of the end cap by about one inch. The design change saved the company about $2 per guardrail, and about $50,000 per year. The guardrail change was implemented in 2005, but Trinity Industries did not notify any safety organizations about the design change. Trinity continued to sell the re-designed guardrails under the original safety certification.
Many Ohio crashes happen on a daily basis and guardrails are in place as a safety precaution, not as a hazard. If you have been injured because of faulty guardrails the Ohio personal injury attorneys urge you to contact their offices to discuss your options by calling 1-800-399-0795 or visit www.yourohiolegalhelp.com for more information.
Although the FHWA did take Trinity to trial, some officials are criticizing how the agency is handling the issue. Critics wonder why it took the FHWA two years to address the issue. According to the FHWA, it did investigate the guardrails in 2012, but at that time, no crash data reported any performance issues, Business Week reports.
In response to the new testing demands, Trinity has stopped shipments of new guardrails until new testing is completed. To date, 36 states have stated they will stop using the terminals from Trinity. Virginia has gone a step further and declared that it will remove existing terminals that may be faulty, Business Week reports.
Trinity has until January of 2015 to re-test the designs. If the designs are shown to be more dangerous than the earlier designs, the company could face serious legal action and steep fines. A recall of the faulty guardrails may also be implemented if the designs are proven to be faulty.
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