DALLAS – A Texas company is stopping shipments of a common highway-guardrail system and conducting more crash tests after it lost a $175 million jury verdict.
Trinity Industries Inc. said Friday that it would stop selling the ET-Plus system until testing is complete.
Earlier this week, a jury in federal district court in Marshall, Texas, decided that Trinity should pay at least $175 million for misleading regulators. A whistle-blower charged that the company changed the design of caps that go on the ends of the guardrails but didn’t tell regulators until several years later. A judge could triple the jury’s verdict. Trinity criticized the decision and hinted that it would appeal.
Critics say that when vehicles strike the guardrail ends, the guardrails don’t crumple as they should, but instead become spears that impale cars and their occupants. Trinity faces several wrongful-death and injury lawsuits.
On Tuesday, the Federal Highway Administration told Trinity to submit a plan this month for new safety testing on the guardrails or lose eligibility for federal reimbursements. States that buy and install the guardrails seek reimbursement from the federal government to cover costs. Massachusetts, Vermont and Missouri have already removed the guardrails from their lists of qualified products.
Trinity has said that since it introduced the ET system in 2000, it has met all federal testing standards. On Friday, the president of the company’s highway-productions division, Gregg Mitchell, said that “in light of (the highway administration’s) request, the right thing to do is to stop shipping the product until the additional testing has been completed.”
Mitchell said company officials still had confidence in the guardrail system, which was designed by engineers at Texas A&M University.
Dallas-based Trinity makes many industrial products including railcars; guardrails are a small part of its business.
The company’s announcement about suspending sales of the guardrail systems came after the stock market closed. The shares closed 92 cents, or 2.5 per cent, to $35.54. They have fallen about 30 per cent since Sept. 19 amid increased media scrutiny of the guardrail system.