WRAL Investigates

Court awards $600 million judgment in guardrail case

Posted June 9, 2015

WRAL Investigates
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— A Texas federal court on Tuesday awarded a $600 million judgment against the maker of controversial guardrails banned in 40 states.

The ET-Plus Guardrail, made by Texas-based Trinity Industries Inc., made news after a series of horrific crashes in which the guardrail failed to peel away and instead pierced cars and drivers. One of the victims was Jay Traylor, a North Carolina man who lost his legs in a crash into an ET-Plus.

Josh Harman, who spent his career installing guardrails, sued the company on behalf of the federal government, claiming the company made changes to its guardrail heads, also known as endcaps, and failed to tell the government about the changes.

A jury unanimously found in Harmon's favor last fall, saying "Trinity Industries, Inc. and Trinity Highway Products, LLC (collectively, “Trinity”) 'knowingly made, used, or caused to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim.'"

Tuesday's award came after the parties to the case failed to reach an agreement.

"Trinity could have prevented this judgment with a product recall and a fraction of the damages," Harmon's attorney, Steven Lawrence, said. "Instead, they have repeatedly chosen to subject the public to continued danger and shareholders to incalculable risks. They can still save lives by simply doing the right thing by recalling the modified ET-Plus."

Trinity plans to appeal the award and said in a statement Tuesday "Trinity takes all allegations concerning the ET Plus seriously and is committed to roadway safety and will continue to defend its position and protect its reputation."

The company pointed to a recent history of eight successful crash tests and its acceptance by the Federal Highway Administration. It issued a statement Tuesday, saying, "The Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) has repeatedly confirmed that the ET Plus is fully compliant with all applicable federal safety regulations ... The ET Plus has been successfully crash tested more times than any other highway product of its kind."

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