A Texas federal judge issued a $663 million verdict against Trinity Industries Inc. following a jury’s decision that the company was guilty of committing fraud against the U.S. government by knowingly selling it unsafe guardrails.
The judge tripled a previous $175 million verdict and assessed more than $138 million in penalties. Whistleblower Joshua Harman received a $199 million commission for being the sole defendant in the case. His 30 percent commission was followed by an award of over $16 million in legal fees, $2.3 million in expenses, and about $177,000 in taxable costs. Following the verdict, the U.S. government received an award of $464 million.
The government did not participate in the case. The whistleblower’s attorney claimed he did not know why the government did not enter the suit, but that its absence made his efforts more challenging.
In 2012, Harman’s False Claims Act complaint alleged that Trinity falsified claims about the crash tests conducted on its ET-Plus guardrail. He argued that evidence demonstrates that the company purposefully withheld safety information from the government and had patterns of unlawful activity.
A Trinity spokesperson stated that the company believes fraud was not committed and that there were significant mistakes made by the court, resulting in a verdict, which should be reversed. The company has also stated that it plans to challenge the ruling, and possibly take its argument to the court of appeals.
Following the suit, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston office are both investigating the nature of the relationship between Trinity and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Trinity claims the FHWA approved the guardrail model as compliant, but Harman’s attorney insisted evidence points to the contrary.
If you are considering filing a report on unlawful activity against the government, speak with Steve Kardell at Whistleblower Law for Managers today.