Investigation: New developments, new lawsuits regarding Trinity - Dallas News |

Investigation: New developments, new lawsuits regarding Trinity guardrail system

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The state of Nevada will no longer use a controversial Texas-made guardrail system. The Nevada Department of Transportation decided to pull the Trinity ET-Plus product from its approved products list. 

That does not mean Nevada will remove any of the existing guardrails, but if one needs to be replaced, it will not be a Trinity ET-Plus product.

Dallas-based Trinity Industries continues to vigorously defend itself, claiming it has a high degree of confidence in its guardrail system as more lawsuits are filed across the country and in Dallas County.

“Orange County, 911,” said a dispatcher during a January emergency call for help.

“I’ve lost my legs,” motorist Jay Traylor said.

“Where are you, sir?” asked the dispatcher.

Traylor was driving on Interstate 40 in North Carolina when he thought he dozed off and hit a guardrail. The rail ripped through Traylor’s car and into the passenger compartment.

“OK, stay on the line with us,” the dispatcher said.

“I am going unconscious,” Traylor said.   

Traylor struggled to stop the bleeding.

“I made a makeshift tourniquet around my leg,” he said.

But time was ticking. 

“I am not kidding. I have lost both legs and I am severely cut. I am not going to make it,” he said.  “I am so sorry. Oh my gosh.”

“Stay on the line with me,” the dispatcher said.

“I am trying. Blood is going out too fast,” Traylor said.  “I can tell you right now. I am not going to make it.”

“We are trying to get help there as soon as we can. You stay with me,” the dispatcher said.

Traylor was rushed to Duke Hospital with critical injuries.

“I could see where the leg was severed, but not the other part of it,” Traylor said.

After six surgeries, Traylor is now a double amputee.  From his hospital bed, he recalled the harrowing ordeal.

“I somehow found my cell phone,” Traylor said. “I pulled off my belt off to tie a tourniquet. I am on the phone with the 911 lady and I am explaining to her, ‘Ma’am, we are running out of time. I am bleeding out. I can feel this is getting real bad, real quick.’”

Traylor is now suing the guardrail manufacturer, Trinity Industries, saying the end terminal was “defective and dangerous.” 

Trinity is denying the allegations. 

Traylor is one of many who’ve sued, claiming Trinity made the design changes to the guardrail system around 2005 and as a result, the terminal no longer functions as a safety device. They claim it locks up and the guardrail system is impaling vehicles, causing serious injury and death.

Those design changes triggered Nevada to take action.

“The Trinity ET-Plus guardrail has been removed from our list of qualified products as a procedural measure,” said Meg Ragonese of the Nevada Department of Transportation. “The Nevada Department of Transportation requires that we be notified of any product changes, and we were not notified of changes made to the ET-Plus guardrail.”

Nevada is not saying much more than that. The two sides confirm they are in discussions, but neither will elaborate.

Texas Department of Transportation officials are now confirming they are discussing the matter, but no decision has been made concerning the Trinity product.

Trinity declined an on-camera interview with FOX 4. The company emphasizes the ET-Plus continues to be accepted by the Federal Highway Administration for use on U.S. Highways.

It says the ET-Plus was successfully crashed tested in May 2005, and the company did not manufacture or sell any system until the federal government issued a letter of acceptance. 

Trinity says the government has since reaffirmed its acceptance of the ET-Plus.

“None of the other terminals are failing like this,” Josh Harman said. Harman has a federal whistleblower case against Trinity.

Harman believes other states will follow Nevada’s lead in removing the Trinity product from their individual approved list and find, as Nevada did, that Trinity didn’t give proper advance notice of the 2005 changes.

“By Nevada recognizing these changes are significant, significant enough to remove ‘em from the products approved list, it confirms what I have said all along, that these changes are not cosmetic,” Harman said. “The state of Nevada and its engineers have come to the same conclusion.”

Back in North Carolina, Traylor is learning to get around in a wheelchair, but it is frustrating and there are days when he is angry.

“I am a go, go person, always what’s next, what’s next,” Traylor said.  “I’ve been sitting here stuck. It has significantly changed. I can’t very well mow the yard.”

Traylor wants to get prosthetics and to eventually return to work as an electrician. He hopes by speaking out, it will shed light on what he believes is a critical problem on the highway.

“I want these guardrails off the road, for other folks and other families,” Traylor said. “That is a false sense of security.”

Traylor’s case was filed in Dallas County. It is set for trial in February 2015. 

Harman’s whistleblower case is set for trial in July 2014. 

A highway safety group is now suing the federal government and the state of Florida over the Trinity guardrails.  The group claims that the feds and Florida are withholding documents and information about the Trinity system.

The following is Trinity’s full response:

"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond.  The  ET-Plus® System continues to be accepted by the Federal Highway Administration for use on U.S. highways.  In the case of the lawsuit that has been filed, the trial is slated to take place in July.  Trinity intends to continue defending itself (and the outstanding reputation of Texas A&M) against Mr. Harman’s allegations in court.

 With regards to the Nevada Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration reaffirmed its acceptance of the ET-Plus® System for use on U.S. Highways.  Trinity and Texas A & M University continue to have a high degree of confidence in the performance and integrity of the ET-Plus ® System.  In order to reinstate the product on Nevada’s Qualified Provider List, we are currently engaged in discussions with the Nevada Department of Transportation to answer any questions they have related to the ET-Plus® System.

The facts remain:

•         The ET-Plus® System with 4-inch guide channels attached to the extruder head was successfully crash-tested by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), pursuant to NCHRP Report 350 test criteria, in May 2005.

•         Trinity did not manufacture or sell any ET-Plus® Systems with 4-inch guide channels until the Federal Highway Administration issued its letter of acceptance in September 2005.

•         When impacted within the applicable NCHRP Report 350 criteria, the ET-Plus® System has been proven to perform as a “crashworthy” product as characterized by the FHWA.

•         The Federal Highway Administration reviewed the claims being made and reaffirmed its acceptance of the ET-Plus® System for use on U.S. Highways in 2012.

•         The federal government looked into the claims being made by Mr. Harman, investigated the allegations, evaluated them, and declined to participate in a lawsuit.

Of importance to your viewers, Mr. Harman has published pictures of damaged guard rail and end treatments and falsely claims the pictures are evidence that the ET-Plus® System does not function to the NCHRP Report 350 standards. Regarding the pictures, in every instance, the only way to assess the performance of the ET-Plus® System, or any similar system, is to know multiple facts such as, to name a few, the weight of the vehicle involved, the orientation of the vehicle at impact, the angle at which the end terminal was impacted, and the speed of the vehicle at time of impact.  Without this and other information pertinent to each incident independently, it is impossible to determine how the end terminal system performed.   Any assumption or representation that the pictures show or suggest something more than a damaged guard rail would be erroneous.

Official statement:

Trinity has a high degree of confidence in the performance and integrity of the ET-Plus® System, which we are proud to manufacture and sell under license from Texas A&M University. The false and misleading allegations being made by Mr. Harman were reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  The FHWA re-affirmed its acceptance of the ET-Plus® System in October 2012 and its eligibility for use on the National Highway System.

A lawsuit was brought by Trinity and Texas A&M for infringement of the patents covering the ET-Plus® System.  During this patent lawsuit, Mr. Harman filed his own lawsuit against Trinity based on allegations of “false claims” associated with the ET-Plus® System. The U.S. Government reviewed his “false claim” allegations and declined to participate in the lawsuit. Trinity is defending itself against the individual making these allegations in court and is taking the steps necessary to fully protect the intellectual property of Texas A&M and the outstanding reputation of Trinity Highway Products and the ET-Plus® System."

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