Trinity Ordered to Pay $663 Million for Failing to Reveal Design Change to Guardrail

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 free consultation.