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Trinity Industries to Pay Minimum of $175 Million in Guardrail Lawsuit

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/22/2014 Megan Stewart

Earlier this week, a Texas jury found that guardrail maker Trinity Industries had defrauded the federal government when Joshua Harman, a competitor, discovered the company changed their design in 2005 without notifying the Federal Highway Administration. These changes have been accused of causing the rails to malfunction during accidents and slice through cars.

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Guardrail systems work by collapsing when they are hit head-on by a vehicle, absorbing the impact while guiding the railing out of the way. The end terminal or rail head that Trinity changed is also supposed to slide along the guardrail itself. However, the changes made the channel behind the head much smaller, causing it to jam instead of move, slicing through vehicles and threatening the welfare of the occupants.

Guardrail© Provided by MotorTrend Guardrail

The company is expected to pay a minimum of $175 million, however, that number is expected to triple to $525 million per federal law, which will then be divided between the United States Treasury and Mr. Harman, the whistle-blower who filed the case.

In response to the jury hearing, Trinity Industries released a statement saying that, "The Company respects the jury's decision. However, Trinity believes the decision cannot and will not withstand legal scrutiny. The Company strongly believes the courts will affirm its position."

While Trinity may think it did nothing wrong, according to state regulators, the change made to its guardrail systems back in 2005 may cause the system to fail. Even after seven years, the changes still hadn't been reported, all the while Trinity Industries collected federal reimbursement dollars. There have been over a dozen lawsuits related to this issue, with five alleged deaths and numerous injuries.

Source: The New York Times

Photo Source: Washington State Department of Transportation via Flickr

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