January 16, 2017 — The family of a young man who died in a car accident after hitting the end of a guardrail has filed a lawsuit against Trinity Industries.
The lawsuit (PDF) was filed on November 29, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois (Peoria Division) — Case No. 16-cv-1464.
Trinity is a Dallas-based company that makes the ET-Plus, a guardrail end-terminal that is marketed as a “safety feature.” It is designed to absorb the impact of an oncoming car and push the end of the guardrail through a U-shaped chute, diverting it away from the car.
The young man, 21 year-old Omar Artis, was driving two of his relatives home just hours after attending his sister’s funeral.
For unknown reasons — his family thinks he may have fallen asleep — Artis swerved his 2004 Hyundai Tiburon off the road and into the end of an ET-Plus Guardrail located near Peoria, Illinois.
The guardrail “penetrated the vehicle through the center grill” and into the passenger compartment. Omar suffered major injuries and died in the hospital the same day. His two passengers had only minor injuries.
Lawyers accuse Trinity of selling a defective end-terminal that causes the guardrail to jam up, break, and impale oncoming cars like a spear. More than two-dozen guardrail injury lawsuits have been filed on behalf of people who were injured or died in gruesome car accidents.
In 2012, a whistle-blower lawsuit accused Trinity of reducing the height and width of the U-shaped chute on the ET-Plus to save money on materials. The changes were made around 2005, and Trinity did not tell the U.S. government or conduct crash tests required by law.
It makes sense that reducing the size of a U-shaped chute would make the guardrail more likely to jam up. However, the ET-Plus “passed” all eight crash tests in 2015, although one car was badly damaged when the guardrail apparently jammed, buckled, and formed a sharp elbow.
Four out of eight ET-Plus guardrails that were tested had an “exit gap” of 1.25-inches — 25% wider than most guardrails suspected of malfunctioning. Vehicles in the crash tests were also driven squarely into the ET-Plus, rather than at a slight angle, as would be expected in most accidents.
The results of those tests were questioned by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Justice Department investigated criminal corruption between Trinity and the Federal Highway Administration. The tests were conducted by a former business partner of Trinity at a research facility in San Antonio, Texas.
In 2014, an independent study by The Safety Institute found that car accidents involving the ET-Plus were 3-times more likely to result in death compared to the original ET-2000 Guardrail.
Do I have a Guardrail Injury Lawsuit?
The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting ET-Plus Guardrail induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been injured in a car accident with a guardrail, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Product Liability Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.
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