The lawsuit was filed against Trinity Industries Inc., a Texas-based company that manufactures the ET-Plus Guardrail.
Omar Artis, a 21 year-old man from Illinois, returned from college when his 25 year-old sister died of a rare disease. Just hours after attending her funeral, he was driving two of his relatives home when he apparently fell asleep and veered into an ET-Plus Guardrail.
The guardrail “penetrated the vehicle through the center grill and entered the passenger compartment,” where it hit Omar. He died later that day in the hospital. His passengers suffered only minor injuries.
The lawsuit was filed on November 29, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois (Springfield Division) — In RE: Linda Sue Young, et al. vs. Trinity Industries, et al. — Case No. 1:16-cv-01464.
Dozens of similar lawsuits have now been filed over injuries and deaths in these extremely gruesome and tragic car accidents.
Next time you’re on the highway, look at the end of the guardrail.
You will probably see a “safety feature” called an ET-Plus. If you drove your car into an ET-Plus, it would push the end of the guardrail into a U-shaped chute and out away from your car — or it’s supposed to.
Let’s look closer at that U-shaped chute. Size matters, obviously. The guardrail will jam up if the chute is too small. It also needs a wide “exit gap.” Inches make a big difference in high-speed car accidents.
Here’s the problem: When guardrails get stuck in an ET-Plus, they can break off and turn into razor-sharp metal spears that impale people in car accidents.
Lawyers say the manufacturer of the ET-Plus reduced the size of the U-shaped chute to save $2 per guardrail sometime around 2005, without conducting necessary crash-tests or telling the government.
The width of the chute was reduced from 5-inches to 4-inches. The width of the “exit gap” was also reduced from 2-inches to 1-inch. Those changes, critics say, made the guardrail more likely to jam up.
After a jury in Texas ordered Trinity to pay $663 million for defrauding the U.S. government by failing to disclose design changes to the ET-Plus, regulators ordered new crash-test and Trinity went on a lobbying blitz.
One car “passed” even though it was badly damaged by a guardrail that buckled. Four out of the eight tests involved guardrails with an “exit gap” of 1.25 inches, which is 25% wider than the guardrails suspected of malfunctioning. They were also conducted by a former business partner of Trinity in Texas.