Tennessee stopped installing new X-Lite guardrail end caps after three people died in two car crashes last year, and then decided to pull out the X-Lite and replace them after a third crash killed a 17 year-old girl.
Now, two victims’ families are filing lawsuits against the manufacturer, Lindsay Corp., for advertising the defective X-Lite as a “safety feature” when it can fail and skewer oncoming cars with razor-sharp guardrails.
Both lawsuits were filed on June 28 in Tennessee circuit court. In one case, the driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed head-on into a pair of guardrails in the median. The guardrails pierced the vehicle, killing the driver, Jacob Davison, and his passenger, Lauren Beuttel.
Just three days later, another driver of a Ford Explorer SUV drifted off the road and hit an X-Lite. The vehicle was impaled on more than 60 feet of guardrail and the front-seat passenger, Wilbert Byrd, was killed.
In both cases, the X-Lite guardrail pieces failed to “telescope,” or slide into each other to absorb the impact of an oncoming vehicle.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation pulled approval for the X-Lite on October 25 after determining that in some high-speed crashes, the first section of the guardrail can separate and the next section can potentially spear an oncoming vehicle.
One week later, 17 year-old Hannah Eimers died in a car crash in which an X-Lite guardrail impaled her vehicle and hit her in the chest and head. Her family was mistakenly sent a $3,000 repair bill to the X-Lite guardrail she hit.
In recent years, there have been growing safety concerns about guardrails and dozens of lawsuits for people who were injured or died — mostly involving the Trinity ET-Plus, another controversial guardrail.
Trinity Industries was hit with a $664 million jury verdict in Texas for failing to tell the government when it reduced the size of a U-shaped chute on the ET-Plus end cap, which saved money on materials but may have made the guardrail more likely to jam up and impale cars.