Guardrails are intended to lessen the impact of a serious collision. However,
a dangerous defect involving the energy-absorbing end terminals mounted
on guardrails is now linked to at least five deaths.
As we previously reported, the specific part, known as the ET-Plus, is
supposed to absorb the energy of a collision and slow down the vehicle.
However, their safety is in question after a whistleblower suit alleged
that the manufacturer, Trinity Industries Inc., changed the dimensions
without notifying the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). Even more
concerning, the new design can allegedly lock up, piercing the vehicle
and its occupants.
Last month, a federal jury found Trinity Industries had defrauded the FHA
by failing to report the design change. The agency has now mandated that
the company conduct new crash safety tests. In response to concerns over
the guardrails, fourteen states have now banned further installations.
Virginia is going even further by removing all existing ET-Plus rail heads.
“We can’t have an unapproved product on our roadways,”
Marshall Herman, a spokeswoman for Virginia’s Transportation Department,
said. “We’re working as we speak on a plan for removal.”
Trinity also faces nine personal injury and
wrongful death lawsuits brought by accident victims and their families. One plaintiff, Jay Traylor,
lost both legs in a January 2014 car accident. His lawsuit alleges that
Trinity’s “unreasonably dangerous” ET-Plus came through
the vehicle’s floorboard and impaled Taylor.
As San Diego product liability lawyers, we will be closely following the
federal investigation, as well as the civil suits. Please check back for updates.