A fatal auto accident last year in Missouri along with a massive federal jury verdict in Texas have heightened the national debate about the safety of the ET-Plus highway guardrail system. A recent study found that the ET-Plus design was nearly four times more likely to be involved in a fatal auto accident than other designs. Citing safety concerns, the Missouri Department of Transportation has suspended further installation of the ET-Plus guardrail system, manufactured by Trinity Industries. To date, 40 states have suspended installation of ET-Plus systems.
The ET-Plus is meant to slow a careening vehicle, bringing it to a gradual stop while minimizing injuries. Critics of the ET-Plus claim that design flaws make it too dangerous, stating that spears of metal can break off and slice through vehicles, resulting in severe injury or death. In last year’s fatal Missouri auto accident, Bradley Abeln’s Ford Bronco spun and crashed broadside into the “end terminal” of the guardrail. The end terminal is supposed to absorb energy from a crash by sliding along the metal guardrail and pushing it away from the vehicle, but Abeln’s family and lawyer have alleged that undisclosed changes to the ET-Plus design in 2005 made the end terminal prone to lock up.
Coincidentally, last October a $175 million judgment was levied against Trinity by a Texas jury for allegedly defrauding the federal government by secretly changing the design specifications without notifying the Federal Highway Administration. Under federal law, the judgment tripled to $525 million.
If you or a loved one sustained a serious injury or death due to a guradrail defect, contact Kline and Specter’s product liability attorneys.