In an ongoing False Claims Act case against highway guardrail manufacturer Trinity Industries, a Texas jury has awarded $175 million in damages against the industrial corporation. The case was initiated by outspoken engineer Josh Harman, who has worked diligently in his whistleblower lawsuit since 2005 – despite “gamesmanship and inappropriate conduct” by the defendant. In fact, U.S. District Court Judge Rodney Gilstrap issued a mistrial in July, 2014, after evidence surfaced revealing that the defendant improperly attempted to influence and intimidate a witness scheduled to testify that Trinity’s ET-Plus models were “nearly three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash” than previous, or alternative, guardrail models.
Following the mistrial, the judge convened a new jury that began hearing evidence and testimony right away. After just hours deliberating, the jury concluded on October 20, 2014, that the defendant had in fact submitted false claims to the U.S. government for reimbursement, and the False Claims Act should apply to render the defendant liable.
Currently, the final damages amount has not been finalized. Under the False Claims Act, damages may be tripled. Moreover, the whistleblower’s attorneys have requested penalties be imposed against Trinity of $100 million.
Review of False Claims Case Against Trinity Industries
Our blog has steadily followed the procedural milestones of the case against Trinity Industries, beginning with the original allegations of fraud. Almost a decade ago, Trinity Industries presented the Federal Highway Administration with its design for guardrails, which were to be installed along highways and interstates across the United States. The original design was met with approval by FHA officials, and Trinity was given the green light to begin manufacturing and installing the parts.
Inexplicably, in 2005, Trinity changed its guardrail model without presenting the FHA with plans for approval. The replacement guardrail design is blamed in the aggravation of several highway accidents, injuries, and fatalities. The whistleblower in the case initiated his proceedings after reporting to Trinity that the guardrails were actually spearing vehicles upon impact as opposed to cushioning the collision. After the problem continued un-rectified, the whistleblower filed his lawsuit in 2012, alleging that Trinity’s submissions to the FHA for reimbursement constituted a false claim as the guardrails were never met with approval by highway officials.
It is unclear how much the whistleblower is set to receive as the final damages amount has not been finalized. However, whistleblowers can receive up to 30 percent of the final damages amount – resulting in sizable rewards for relators involved in lucrative settlements. For example, 30 percent of the verdict entered against Trinity Industries would amount to over $52 million.
Contact Berger Montague Today
If you are aware of misconduct or fraud pursuant to a government contract, please contact us right away. A whistleblower attorney like those of Berger Montague can help you gather evidence, present your claim, and protect your rights. For more information, contact our office today.