As we have steadily reported over the past couple months, the False Claims Act case against Trinity Industries has resulted in a tumultuous trial, mistrial, $175 million verdict, and the possibility for a treble damages imposition of $525 million. In the latest procedural milestone in the case, United States District Court Judge Rodney Gilstrap has ordered Trinity and the whistleblower plaintiff, Joshua Harman, to participate in a hopefully productive mediation session to determine a workable whistleblower reward – which could reach up to 30 percent of the overall verdict or recovery. If the damages against Trinity are tripled, Mr. Harman could receive up to $157.5 million dollars.
Court orders mediation with renowned law professor
The order from Judge Gilstrap was rendered on October 28, 2014, and directed both the whistleblower, Trinity Industries, and various federal agencies to participate in mediation by December 31, 2014. The mediation is to be conducted by Duke University School of Law professor Francis McGovern. Along with the litigants, the court has encouraged the whistleblower to allow both the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice to the table – both agencies with a substantial interest in the outcome of the case.
The U.S. government opted not to intervene in the case against Trinity Industries, which has ballooned into an interstate disaster as officials have begun halting the installation of Trinity’s ET-Plus guardrail system. So far, 24 U.S. states have either ceased construction projects involving the system or have ordered the replacement of the systems – likely at a cost to Trinity Industries under subsequent litigation.
Trinity Industries facing mounting legal scrutiny
The case against Trinity Industries began following the unrelenting assertions by whistleblower Joshua Harman that Trinity had unlawfully changed its guardrail design subsequent to approval of an alternative design by the Federal Highway Administration. As the case progressed, Trinity was accused of intimidating witnesses, leading to a mistrial after a University of Alabama engineer reported threats by Trinity executives. At the conclusion, Trinity was slapped with a $175 million verdict – which could be tripled under the False Claims Act’s treble damages provisions.
Along with the overwhelming False Claims Act liability, Trinity is facing several personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits stemming from the faulty guardrail systems. As decried by the relator in his whistleblower lawsuit, the altered guardrail system has a tendency to impale and “spear” a vehicle in half as opposed to absorbing the impact. As a result, close to two dozen plaintiffs are reporting serious injuries or death as a result of the defective product. Interestingly, several states have conducted independent crash test analyses of the ET-Plus design, resulting in a finding that the design was 2.86 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than Trinity’s prior design.
Contact a whistleblower attorney today
If you are aware of fraud involving federal funding, grant money, or a federal contract for services, we encourage you to contact our office today. Not only can a whistleblower lawsuit result in a lucrative reward, but could help save lives and protect Americans from dangerous or fraudulent items.