By: Allan M. Siegel
Transportation authorities across the country are taking inventory of the safety devices on their guardrails to find a defective end piece. Whistleblower Joshua Harman made national news on October 20, 2014 when a federal jury found that Trinity Highway Products made false statements regarding its ET-Plus, a yellow and black rectangular block that is placed at the end of the guardrail. Joshua Harman was previously a guardrail engineer who came forward to help expose this defect. Harman says that the rectangular device is supposed to take "the guardrail and push it out to the side of the vehicle and slow the vehicle to a controlled stop." The device working properly is pictured above. The metal from the guardrail spins out to the side, but on a defective device the metal from the guardrail is not pushed out of the way. Rather, it impales the vehicle at potentially fatal forces.
Harman says that Trinity safety tested an ET-Plus with a 5" attachment to the guardrail. This version was approved by the federal government. However, Trinity chose to cut costs by switching to a 4" attachment without disclosing the change to the government. Internal emails proved that a company official wrote, "I'm feeling that we could make this change with no announcement." It was through these emails that the federal jury found that the company knowingly made false statements, and as a result it could cost millions of dollars in damages. Many transportation authorities for states across the country have suspended installation of the device and plan to replace it. This device has already caused fatal accidents, however, including the case of a Tennessee woman, Elizabeth Elsevier, who crashed into a defective 4" ET-Plus in Kingsport. During a rainstorm she hydroplaned and spun out of control. When she hit the guardrail the defective device caused such a violent impact that her car instantly flipped causing her death. Similarly, a young Illinois man, Tim Benson, crashed into a defective guardrail that impaled his driver side door. He was nearly cut in two, but miraculously survived.
Maryland and Virginia are currently taking inventory of their guardrail systems to see how many of these defective devices might exist in our area. Whistleblower Joshua Harman says he won't quit until all of the defective devices are all removed, "it could be someone's life." As a reward for coming forward as a whistleblower, Harman will collect up to one third of the judgment against Trinity. If you think you may have a whistleblower case, please contact our firm for a free legal consultation.