Texas Trial Lawyers Say Failed Guardrail Tests UnreportedOctober 17, 2014 — The New York Times is reporting that trial attorneys have accused Trinity Industries, the manufacturer of the ET-Plus guardrail, of failing to report five failed crash tests.

The federal lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by Joshua Harmon, a competitor who discovered problems with the ET-Plus, after he lost a patent dispute with Trinity in 2012.

During trial in federal court in Marshall, Texas, attorneys for Trinity said the five tests were not reported because they were an experiment to see whether ET-Plus guardrails with a “flared” design would work better. Because the guardrail was “never manufactured, sold or installed” on roadways, the failed tests were never reported.

Harmon says the “flared” design was actually the original design of the ET-Plus, before Trinity quietly reduced its size sometime around 2005. He accuses Trinity of deliberately hiding results of the tests to conceal design defects.

The ET-Plus guardrail end terminal is supposed to absorb the impact of an oncoming car. It has a feeder chute that is supposed to flatten the guardrail into a ribbon and deflect it harmlessly away from the oncoming vehicle.

Instead, Harmon alleges that Trinity reduced the size of the feeder chute to save money on materials. The re-designed feeder chute is more likely to lock up, causing the guardrail to act like a spear that impales oncoming vehicles and injures or kills drivers.

An estimated 500,000 of the ET-Plus end terminals are installed on millions of miles of roadway in the United States. However, four states have suspended further installation of the product until its safety is known — Nevada, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Virginia. Engineering authorities for these states say the re-designed ET-Plus was never approved for use on their roadways.

 

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