A federal judge in Texas awarded whistleblower Josh Harman $199 million, 30 percent of the total $663 million judgement against Trinity Industries, a guardrail manufacturer. Harman alleged in his False Claims Act case that Trinity modified the guardrails it had sold to the federal government for use on federal highways without disclosing those modifications, as required. Harman also said that Trinity failed to properly test those modified units, known as ET-Plus guardrails.
Last year, a federal jury in Texas said that Trinity owed the government $175 million in damages. Federal Judge Rodney Gilstrap agreed. This week, the judge also tripled that award to $525 million and then added a civil penalty of $138 million — $8,250 for each of the 16,711 false certifications Trinity made to the federal government. The judge then awarded Harman a full 30 percent of the recovery — citing the fact that “the government opted not to participate in the trial of this case and left the full burden of prosecuting this qui tam case to Joshua Harman.” He also awarded Harman $19 million in attorneys fees and costs.
“If a vehicle strikes the modified ET-Plus, the modified internal dimensions of the ET-Plus can cause the guardrail to lock in the throat of the unit, thereby causing the unit to malfunction, creating a hazard to the occupants of the vehicle and others. Several recent accidents involving the modified ET-Plus units have resulted in serious injuries and fatalities when the ET-Plus units malfunctioned.” Harman stated in Court papers.
Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers but not Mr. Harman