Lawsuits claim the guardrails were to blame for at least five deaths and many severe injuries, including loss of limbs, yet the Texas manufacturer, Trinity Industries, denies there is a problem.
The New York Times reported that although federal highway officials in Missouri had long insisted that the guardrails in that state were safe, apparently some guardrail heads had malfunctioned, turning the rails into spears when a car hit and injuring those inside, rather than cushioning the blow.
Although the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) continues to deny there’s a problem, the Daily Beast reported a 2012 email from a senior engineer at the FHA as saying that it’s “hard to ignore the fatal results” of the guardrails.
According to The New York Times, a spokesman for the FHA said the agency approved the guardrails in 2005, based on results of crash tests conducted by Trinity and a Texas A&M University laboratory. It reviewed those tests and others in 2012 and was still satisfied with them.
Bloomberg News reported that Trinity first gained federal approval for its ET-Plus end terminal in 2000. Lawsuits allege that the company changed the dimensions of the ET-Plus sometime between 2002 and 2005 without telling federal authorities. Apparently, Trinity modified an energy-absorbing end terminal, a steel mechanism that is mounted on the end of a guardrail. Instead of acting like a shock absorber, lawsuits claim that Trinity’s modified ET-Plus can lock up, behaving more like a giant spear.
The ET-Plus guardrail end terminal was the subject of an ABC News investigation in September. In an internal email obtained by ABC News, a company official calculated the change, a shortening a particular metal part from five inches to four, would save $2 per guardrail end terminal, or $50,000 a year.
Trinity goes to court this week to defend itself against accusations of a cover-up and fraud against the U.S. Government that the company’s accuser, Joshua Harman, says is linked to dozens of critical injuries and deaths.
Lawsuits filed against Trinity show destroyed vehicles with the guardrail pierced through the passenger cabin. Many of the drivers who survived have lost limbs from being pierced when the guardrail skewered the car. ABC News reported that there are half a million of the devices used on state highways today.
Harman is seeking damages on behalf of the government in order to recall or replace every modified ET-Plus currently in use, which could cost Trinity a reported $1 billion.
If you have been injured in an accident relating to a Trinity guardrail, the personal injury lawyers at Munley Law can help. We’ve represented thousands of accident victims and their families in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Call Munley Law today for a free consultation. Call 855-866-5529