Judge orders guardrail manufacturer pay $663 M in damages after whistleblower verdict

Judge orders guardrail manufacturer pay $663 M in damages after whistleblower verdict

MARSHALL, TX (WBTV) - A federal judge has ordered the maker of a controversial guardrail end terminal to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, fines and attorney fees.

US District Court Judge Rodney Gilstrap entered the ruling in the whistleblower case against Trinity Industries after Trinity and the whistleblower, Joshua Harman, were unable to reach a settlement agreement.

A federal jury in Texas sided with Harman in October, ruling that Trinity knowingly covered up changes to its popular Trinity ET-Plus guardrail end terminal. Attorneys for Harman contend the changes—which made the product smaller, lighter and cheaper to produce—cause guardrails to lock inside the terminal and spear through cars instead of peeling back on impact as intended.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the full judgement

During the trial, lawyers for Harman played videos of never-before-seen crash tests they claimed proved Trinity knew the part was defective.

A jury issued a $175 million verdict in the case, which is automatically increased because of the nature of the legal action.

On Tuesday, Judge Gilstrap also assessed a civil penalty of $8,250 for each of the 16,771 false certifications Trinity made in connection with claims for reimbursement from the Federal Highway Administration.

According to the judge's ruling on Tuesday, Harman will receive $199 million and his attorneys will be awarded $16.5 million in fees and $2.3 million in case expenses.

Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Trinity Industries, issued a statement shortly after the ruling was entered that indicated the company will appeal the verdict.

"We believe the evidence clearly shows that no fraud was committed," Eller said. "Trinity also believes that the trial court made significant errors in applying the federal law to the plaintiff's allegations and, therefore, the judgment is erroneous and should be reversed in its entirety."

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