A federal judge in east Texas declared a mistrial in the case involving a controversial guardrail system manufactured by Trinity Industries of Dallas.
The $219 million guardrail case was entering its fifth day in Marshall, Texas when Judge Rodney Gilstrap sent the jury home.
The judge told them the case had been "…replete with errors, gamesmanship, inappropriate conduct and matters that should not be a part of a trial ..."
The whistleblower case was filed back in 2012 against Trinity Industries.
Josh Harman accused the company of making changes to a guardrail end terminal and failing to disclose those changes to the Federal Highway Administration.
Harman alleged the changes cause the system to lock up and the guardrail can impale a vehicle, but Trinity denies the allegations, testifying that the safety device has been successfully crash tested and is essentially the same as the one approved by the FHWA in 2005.
On Friday, Judge Gilstrap told the jury there were "…serious issues regarding whether or not the president of Trinity Highway products intentionally attempted to intimidate a witness from appearing in this case…” and he said he “…believes the plaintiff took steps to hide this witness and unfairly spring this witness on the defendant."
He said none of the allegations "…remain proven beyond a doubt…" but they are "…extremely serious and extremely prejudicial… “
The judge also told the jury he had to sanction both the plaintiff and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which invented the guardrail end terminal.
A mistrial does not mean the case is over – it’s just over for the jury in the case.
The judge says he'll address the problems and retry the case as early as the fall with substantially the same evidence and witnesses.
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