June 30, 2015 — Trinity Industries, Inc., the manufacturer of a guardrail linked to at least nine deaths, has been ordered to pay $663 million, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.
Trinity was originally accused of wrongdoing by a whistle-blower named Joshua Harman, who said the company defrauded the government by failing to disclose design changes to the ET-Plus guardrail that may have made it defective.
In October 2014, a federal jury in Texas ordered Trinity to pay $175 million for defrauding the federal government by failing to disclose design changes. Harman warned those changes may have made the guardrails more likely to lock up and impale oncoming cars. The award was tripled to $525 million under federal law.
U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap also added a $138 million in penalties — amounting to $8,250 for each of 16,771 false certifications made to the government and other entities to get payment for guardrails, the New York Times reports.
Harman was awarded a 30% of the payout, or about $200 million plus $19 million in legal fees.
Trinity still faces about 14 lawsuits, including five wrongful death claims, on behalf of people who were injured or killed after hitting the guardrails.
Trinity maintains that the guardrails are not defective. Highway officials conducted a series of eight crash-tests earlier this year. The guardrails passed all eight tests. However, on the eighth and final test, a vehicle was severely damaged when the guardrail jammed up and created a sharp elbow that hit the car when it spun around.
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