Marilyn Tennissen Dec. 5, 2014, 2:03pm


Trinity Industries was hit with a $175 million verdict for giving false information to the government about the highway guardrails it manufactures, but the case is not over.

Trinity is seeking a judgment as a matter of law, which the plaintiff, the U.S. Government, opposes.

In March 2012, whistleblower Joshua Harman filed suit under the False Claims Act, alleging that Trinity Industries changed the design of its ET-Plus end cap piece for guardrails in a way that made the product unsafe. Instead of cushioning the impact in a car crash, the endcap would collapse and the guardrail became like a spear piercing the vehicle.

A jury in Marshall agreed with Harman’s case on behalf of the government, and struck Trinity with a $175 million verdict. Soon after, the Texas Department of Transportation, and highway departments of other states, stopped the use of the ET-Plus end cap.

Now Trinity is seeking a review of the verdict from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, but the government claims the company “consistently and knowingly misrepresented to the purchasers of the ET-Plus that the product had been approved by the Federal Highway Administration,” according to its Dec. 5 motion to oppose.

At the same time, Harman wants all the records from the case to be made public. But the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which developed the guardrail but was not involved in the case, wants to keep the record sealed, claiming it involves trade secrets.

“Disclosure of these trade secrets would undercut Texas A&M’s competitive advantage, impair its substantial investments in research and development, and jeopardize its customer relationship,” the Institute wrote in its Anticipatory Motion for Stay Pending Appeal, filed Nov. 26.

And as a sister publication of the Southeast Texas Record, the Madison County Record, reported, two counties in Illinois have filed suits against Trinity Industries, seeking damages to cover the cost of replacing the guardrails.

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