June 16, 2014 — Bloomberg reports that a whistleblower lawsuit has been filed against Dallas-based Trinity Industries Inc., one of the largest guardrail makers in the U.S.
The complaint was filed by safety advocate Joshua Harman. It involves the ET-Plus end terminal, which was approved in 2000. When it is impacted, it is supposed to act like a shock absorber, forcing the guardrail through a slot that deflects away from the car.
Harman alleges that Trinity changed the dimensions sometime between 2002 and 2005, making the slot one inch shorter and one inch narrower than the original. He says this new model can lock up, allowing the guardrail to act like a spike that can easily impale a vehicle and its occupants.
Currently, the re-designed guardrail has not been approved. In addition, federal safety engineers did not learn about the new design until 2012.
Harman filed a lawsuit against Trinity in March 2012, alleging that the company made five changes to the ET-Plus without notifying federal highway safety authorities. He alleges that these changes cut costs and made the ET-Plus more difficult to reuse after an accident, forcing officials to purchase new guardrails.
The first lawsuit is scheduled to go before a jury in July. Meanwhile, accidents continue to occur. ABC 15 reports that a lawsuit has been filed against Trinity by Jay Traylor, a 36 year-old man who lost both his legs when a guardrail went through the floor of his SUV.
Bloomberg also reported the case of Darius Williams, a 24 year-old who was nearly killed when a length of guardrail pierced his door and forced him into the opposite backseat. Trinity is currently facing at least nine personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
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