A jury has ruled that Trinity Industries (TRN) deliberately withheld information from the U.S. Government about cost-savings to its highway guardrail system that made that system more dangerous which defrauded the government out of $175 million.The case was brought by Joshua Harman, a maker and installer of guardrail systems in Virginia. Trinity made secret design changes that transformed one of its products into a potentially lethal highway hazard, wrongly passing off the product as eligible for federal funding and defrauding the government of $218 million, Mr. Harman claimed.
Damages to be awarded against the company will be tripled and added to a penalty to be determined by the judge. The total liability may reach as much as $1 billion.
The highway safety product, called the ET-Plus, is being investigated across the country. , the Federal Highway Administration asked all states to start submitting information on crashes involving the ET-Plus to the agency’s safety office. Four states have banned new installations of it on their highways, citing ongoing investigations. And the company faces more than a dozen personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in which plaintiffs allege the product behaved defectively in car crashes.The product is a 175-pound steel mechanism that mounts onto the end of a guardrail and is meant to cushion the impact of a crashing car. Instead of acting like a shock absorber, Trinity’s secretly revised version locks up and can impale oncoming vehicles, according to the lawsuit.
Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers