A federal judge in Texas has declared a mistrial in the possible billion-dollar whistleblower lawsuit involving the popular Trinity guardrails that line our nation’s highways.
According to a U.S. district judge, there were “serious concerns” regarding witness testimony associated with the defendant, highway manufacturing giant Trinity Industries.
The whistleblower and former industry business owner, Josh Harman, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the American public in Texas where the company’s headquarters are located. According to Harman, the current Trinity guardrails, the ET-Plus model, are dangerous and deadly. He claims the guardrails were never properly tested or properly approved by the government.
According to a court transcript from Friday, July 18, the judge declared that “this case has been replete with errors, gamesmanship, inappropriate conduct, and matters that should not be a part of any trial where a fair and impartial verdict is expected.”
The judge also discussed the possibility of the president of Trinity Highway Products attempting to intimidate a witness and possibly committing perjury.
Trinity claims that the allegations against its president are untrue and that the company “looks forward to re-presenting the facts in this matter.”
The federal judge also said the plaintiffs is this matter took steps to prevent the witness from being deposed by the defense and “effectively hounded him.”
“I believe the plaintiffs took steps to hide this witness and unfairly spring this witness on the defendants,” the judge said.
The mistrial was declared less than a week into the Marshall, Texas trial, which is about 150 miles east of Dallas.
The guardrails in this case were installed throughout the country in all 50 states. According to Harman, there have been hundreds of accidents that caused serious harm. In this specific type of guardrail, the terminal head is supposed to take the impact and slow down the vehicle. The railing should channel through the head and pigtail out the side and away from the car. But, there have been many accidents where the railing gets jammed up and then pierces the vehicle like a spear. They cut through the cars and any people inside the vehicle as well.
One of the most recent accidents occurred in January 2014 in North Carolina where an Isuzu Trooper hit a guardrail head-on, leaving the driver’s legs severed.
According to Harman, a guardrail should not cut a person in half.
A new trial is anticipated to happen later this year in the fall. The case would be tried in front of a new jury.
As drivers, we rarely think about roadways themselves being risky. Instead we tend to focus on more talked about roadway hazards, such as cell phone use, speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, as this case shows, there can be more than meets the eye when it comes to dangerous roadways, especially highway guardrails.
It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds, as it could affect victims in Florida who have been seriously injured or even killed in auto accidents due to highway guardrails.