Guardrails are designed keep to protect you if your car hits one, but cost savings measure at one of the nation’s largest guardrail suppliers have put drivers at serious risk of injury or death.
Whistleblower’s Lawsuit Against Guardrail Company Nets $525 Million
October 23, 2014 A jury ruled on the False Claim lawsuit filed by certified guard rail engineer Joshua Harmon against Trinity Industries, Inc., for defrauding the federal government. You probably have never given much thought to the guardrails that line U.S. roads and highways. They’re not just metal strips.Guardrails are designed keep cars on the road during a collision, and to protect you if your car hits it head-on. The car’s energy should force the guardrail to flatten, and stop your vehicle. Joshua Harmon, a guardrail engineer, noticed a lot of highway guardrails had been crushed in collisions–many more than he would usually see.
Lawsuit claims that guardrail company defrauded the government
A few years ago, Trinity Industries, Inc.,–a company that makes those guardrails, and sells them to the government–changed the guardrail design. Trinity changed its design for the sole purpose of increasing profits. Shaving off 1 inch of the guardrail head saved the company money in production; plus, the 4-inch guardrails heads are totally crushed in collisions (5-inch heads were repairable), forcing the purchase of new guardrails every time there is a collision. Trinity was making money every time one of its guardrails injured or killed someone. Trinity executives reported that the company had run tests using the new 4-inch design, and found it to be safe. Yet, the company could not produce any record of its safety tests. It is uncertain if they ever tested the 4-inch design. However, an email entered into evidence made it clear that Trinity executives knew the 1-inch guardrail change was purposefully concealed from the government. In short, the Federal Highway Administration was paying millions to buy and replace a dangerous guardrail system that had never been approved
Jury finds Trinity liable in False Claims lawsuit
This week, a federal jury found in favor of Plaintiff Harmon. Under the False Claims Act, anyone can be a “whistleblower,” reporting on companies defrauding the government of taxpayer dollars. The incentive is that the whistleblower plaintiff is entitled to a portion of the damages, which can be three times the amount of the original fraud. Trinity Industries, Inc. will undoubtedly appeal the verdict. But in the meantime, Trinity guardrails are on the roads in almost every state. Most states, including Oregon, have no plans to remove them.
Originally posted by Posted by Tom D’Amore for the Legal Examiner Ball & Evans and Ball & Evans Car Accident Injury Lawyers Los Angeles