Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers: Fraud Case Involving Unsafe Guardrail Systems
September 16, 2015
A Guardrail systems manufacturer has been found to have committed fraud in failing to disclose changes to their system that led to increased accidents. Trinity Industries failed to disclose new changes to their guardrail ends to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). These changes increased likelihood of injury or death in a collision. Trinity Industries is the globally dominant producer of guardrail systems.
The case was brought by SPIG Industries, a competing company, who said that Trinity Industries had illegally modified the guardrails without notifying the FHA. Since the guardrails were bought by state governments using federal money, SPIG industries argued that Trinity had defrauded the federal government under the False Claims Act by changing the guardrails to a less costly and potentially more dangerous model without government approval.
The new guardrail system, ET-plus, was found to cause nearly two times more injuries and 4 times the deaths of the previous model in the event of a crash. The guardrails were installed throughout the US. The company failed to notify regulatory authorities of the changes from the earlier design that led to these problems. The changes in the design were made sometime between 2002 and 2005.
Guardrail end systems work by dissipating energy from crashes like shock absorbers. They keep rails from spearing cars by deflecting them away during an accident. The ET-Plus can potentially fail to do this, instead of giving way it can lock up and impale a car.
A jury found Trinity Industries guilty of violating the False Claims Act and awarded the government $175 million in damages. The judge tripled these damages, to $525 million, as allowed under the law. An additional $138.4 million in fines brings the amount Trinity will pay up to $663.4 million. There are still potential appeals to the ruling. A previous verdict had led to the ET-plus already being banned in dozens of states.
For more information, call Philadelphia product liability lawyers at Galfand Berger at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. We represent victims injured in car accidents or harmed by defective products in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.