A Texas Jury found that a highway guardrail manufacturer, Trinity Industries, deliberately withheld information and defrauded the government and awarded damages in the amount of $175 million dollars, which, under federal law, will triple to $525 million dollars. The dispute centered around a design change Trinity made in 2005. During the discovery phase of the litigation, an internal document was uncovered which showed that a Trinity official estimated that making a modification to the guardrail which reduced a piece of metal from 5 inches to 4 inches would save the company $2 per guardrail. However, experts found that this modification made the guardrails more dangerous to motorists. The guardrail system works by collapsing when hit head-on, absorbing the impact of a vehicle and guiding the railing out of its path. The rail head or end terminal, which is often marked with yellow and black stripes, is supposed to slide along the guardrail itself, pushing it to the side. This modification was to the end terminal, and when struck from the front end, rather than absorb the car’s impact, it would spear straight through the car and its occupants. Even though Trinity was supposed to advise the government that this modification was made, these changes were not disclosed for 7 years. At least 14 other lawsuits blame the guardrails for five deaths and more injuries. Some states have gone so far as to ban further purchase of these guardrails, citing safety concerns.
Unfortunately, this case is an example of the dangers of when companies place profits over safety. If you, or someone you know, has suffered injuries from a defective product, or would simply like more information about product liability, please contact us. Stark & Stark has many experienced attorneys who specialize in products liability matters.