A federal jury determined that Trinity Industries, a Texas-based guardrail manufacturer, must pay $175 million in penalties after a whistleblower alerted authorities to False Claims Act violations by the company.
Trinity manufactures many of the guardrails that you see as you drive on highways and roads across the nation. Josh Harman, the whistleblower in the case, revealed that Trinity Industries made a variety of false claims to federal regulators after changing the design system of its ET-Plus guardrail ends in 2005.
According to Harman, the new design of the guardrail ends made them unsafe for use on roadways. Rather than acting as a buffer or cushion as the old guardrail ends would, the new design caused the guardrail ends to act as a spear when cars would collide with their ends. According to the complaint, this defect in the design has been linked to at least a dozen reported accidents, some of which were fatal. Several states have now stopped contractors from installing these guardrails, and there has been a significant amount of negative press attention related to these alleged defects in recent weeks. Trinity has denied all wrongdoing and issued a statement saying that it has full confidence in the performance of its guardrail ends.
The Federal Highway Administration approved the guardrail changes after reviewing crash tests, but now the FHWA is conducting a deeper review of Trinity’s guardrail record. It is reaching out to state officials, asking them to share information about crashes with the ET-Plus guardrail end.
In siding with Harman, the U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas showed that Trinity Industries was negligent in its design and should have known about the defects.
For more information about this case or for tips on how to proceed as a whistleblower, speak with the Dallas attorneys at Whistleblower Law for Managers today.