By: Allan M. Siegel
Trinity Industries, Inc., a guardrail manufacturer, has been ordered by
a federal judge to pay $663 million in damages for failing to inform the
government that it had made design changes to the highway guardrails.
The company had come under scrutiny following deaths that occurred when
drivers hit the company's ET-Plus guardrails were impaled by the guardrails.
The guardrails were designed and intended to fold up when hit by a car,
decreasing chances of death or injury to drivers. This suit was brought
by a Virginia competitor alleging that Trinity had failed to inform the
government that it had made design changes to the guardrails. Changes
that some believed made the guardrail systems more dangerous. A jury initially
ordered Trinity to pay at least $175 million and the judge tripled the
jury's award and added another $138 million for false claims.
The government will get $464 million, while the competitor who brought
the suit will get a whistleblower bounty of $199 million, plus attorneys'
fees for bringing the suit. The government actually chose not to join
the suit against Trinity. Trinity repeatedly claimed all of the guardrails
met federal standards, and federal officials stated that the new design
did in fact meet safety standards when crash tested. Ultimately though,
the jury found that Trinity committed fraud by not disclosing to the government
that it had changed the guardrail design after its previous system had
been approved. Trinity also revealed that it was subpoenaed by federal
prosecutors for 16 years of documents relating to the ET-Plus system and
earlier guardrail products. Several wrongful death lawsuits have also
been filed against the company for the guardrails' failures that resulted
in drivers being killed.
The attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., have years
of experience fighting to hold corporations accountable for their negligence.
If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of a company's
failure to properly design or manufacture their product, please contact us for a