The Dangers of Trinity Guardrail End Terminals in Virginia

On October 9, 2011, Adam Coster lost control of his vehicle on I-64 eastbound in Newport News.[1]  His car ran off the side of the road and struck a guardrail end terminal, which impaled him.[2]  Adam died at the scene.[3]  His family filed suit against the manufacturer of the guardrail end terminal, Trinity Industries.[4]  In the lawsuit, the Coster family alleges that the end terminal, called the ET-Plus, pierced through the vehicle and impaled Adam rather than sliding harmlessly off to the side, as it was designed to do.[5]

Trinity Guardrail Lawsuits

Trinity ET-Plus end terminals have been the source of countless lawsuits across the country by individuals injured or killed by them as well as by states who installed them.  Trinity Industries received National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approval for an end terminal guardrail design in 2005.[6]  Sometime after receiving the necessary approval, Trinity appears to have modified the design of the end terminals.[7]  The lawsuits allege that Trinity Industries modified the design of their end terminals without notifying the states and federal government who purchased them, and without properly testing the new design.[8]  The lawsuits further alleged that the new end terminals have been spearing motorists, causing serious bodily injury and death.

In December 2014, Virginia filed suit against Trinity Industries in Richmond City Circuit Court, alleging that Trinity defrauded the taxpayers of Virginia by selling the Commonwealth thousands of untested and unsafe guardrails.[9]  Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring released a statement: “[i]t is shocking that a company would think they could secretly modify a safety device in a way that may actually pose a threat to Virginia motorists.  Trinity had an obligation to test and seek approval for its equipment, but instead, they sold the commonwealth thousands of unapproved products that had not been properly tested . . .”[10]

Just two months before Virginia filed suit, a federal jury in Texas in October 2014 found evidence that Trinity defrauded the federal government by failing to notify them of its design modifications to the ET-Plus.[11]  The judge subsequently ordered Trinity to pay $663 million.[12]  Trinity continues to fight to overturn the result, but the decision opened the floodgates to similar litigation nationwide.[13]

Trinity guardrails in Virginia

Since Virginia filed its lawsuit, Trinity has been fighting back.  The company took out full page newspaper ads in Virginia accusing the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Commonwealth of Virginia of being too litigious and wasting money on testing.[14]  Trinity has also stated that it did not keep the design modifications a secret, but they did admit to inadvertently omitting the change from crash-test reports.[15]

More than 11,000 Trinity ET-Plus end terminals are presently installed on Virginia roadways.[16]  VDOT has announced plans to begin removing the Trinity ET-Plus model end terminals from certain high-speed Virginia roadways.[17]  In the meantime, lawsuits against Trinity continue.

Guardrail collisions can result in devastating injuries or fatalities for the parties involved. If you or someone you know has been injured by a defective guardrail, we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call Allen & Allen for a free consultation at 1-866-388-1307.