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  • Writer's pictureGregory Sandler


“People are dying.”

Those are the words from a guardrail installer turned whistle-blower who brought a successful suit against Trinity Industries, a major guardrail manufacturer.

A Texas jury awarded $175 million against Trinity after Harman reported that the company secretly changed its federally approved product, rendering it unsafe. By law, the jury’s verdict was tripled, and earlier this year, the judge tacked on additional civil penalties of $138 million.

The product at issue was the Trinity-manufactured ET-Plus, an end-cap treatment used on highway guardrail. The ET-Plus had been approved by the Federal Highway Administration in 2005 when used on the Federal Highway System. Although state transportation agencies are ultimately responsible for choosing highway construction products, reimbursement approval is key in their determinations.

ABC News reported on 20/20 that this change was anticipated to save the company a mere $50,000 per year. However, this seemingly minor redesign has had an enormous impact on the operability of the guardrail. Numerous lawsuits have alleged that the redesign caused the guardrails to impale cars, becoming an instrument of injury and death. The video of a crash test earlier this year showed the guardrail doing just that.

After the Harman jury found that Trinity had “made a false or fraudulent claim” in obtaining approval, the FHWA issued a letter to Trinity requiring that the manufacturer perform additional crash testing. State transportation agencies, including VDOT, scrambled to suspend new installations of the Trinity guardrail end treatment.

The FHWA later decided to perform its own additional testing. The recently published results showed that the guardrail suffered from “performance limitations.”

Here at home, the Commonwealth’s Attorney General is pursuing a lawsuit against Trinity in Richmond City Circuit Court, alleging that Virginia motorists were endangered by Trinity’s fraudulent acts. The judge in that case recently denied Trinity’s motion to dismiss the case. And earlier this summer, a man’s car was impaled by guardrail after he hydroplaned on U.S. 29. He was reported in stable condition. joint criminal investigation into the matter.

Although the guardrail manufacturer is based in Dallas, its products are installed across the country on the National Highway System. Two federal inspector general offices are conducting a joint criminal investigation into the matter.

The tragic irony of the Trinity ET-Plus is that guardrail is intended as a safety measure of last resort. Indeed, Trinity’s own website proclaims that it is “an industry leader in the guardrail and end treatment business.”

If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, including a defective highway device, you need to hire a lawyer long before you file your lawsuit. If you feel that you have been injured, Call toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at or by email at

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