Friday, December 12, 2014

False Claim Act Helps Hold Trinity Accountable For Cutting Corners!

Virginia is suing the guardrail maker Trinity Industries, saying that it sold the state thousands of pieces of potentially dangerous, improperly tested and unapproved products.

We first reported on this a couple of months ago when it was first discovered they have been cutting corners to save money in manufacturing.
The suit makes Virginia the first governmental entity to participate in whistle-blower suits against Trinity, which is based in Dallas. The suits were brought on behalf of state and federal governments, but none of those entities, until now, have been plaintiffs.
In October, a jury found that Trinity had defrauded the federal government when it did not inform the Federal Highway Administration of changes it made to the guardrail, the ET-Plus, in 2005. The company sold the guardrails to state governments, which, in turn, received federal reimbursement.
The jury returned with a verdict for $175 million, which will, by law, be tripled, to $525 million. The highway agency did not participate in the federal case.
It is shocking that a company would think they could secretly modify a safety device in a way that may actually pose a threat to Virginia motorists,” he said. “Trinity had an obligation to test and seek approval for its equipment, but instead, they sold the commonwealth thousands of unapproved products that had not been properly tested to ensure they would keep motorists safe.”
Trinity said it would defend itself against Virginia’s lawsuit. “Trinity did not commit fraud against the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Trinity. He said it was “conducting the eight tests requested by the F.H.W.A., which includes the two tests specifically requested by Virginia,” and had “given them all the data they have requested.
In addition to the Virginia case, a separate lawsuit was filed by counties in Illinois. Prosecutors in Hamilton and Macon counties sued Trinity in federal court on Nov. 26 on behalf of all Illinois counties, accusing the company of a “fraudulent cover up” and deceptive trade practices, court records show.
Virginia and more than 30 other states have banned the guardrail products, which are suspected of having a defect that could make them jam. When that happens, the rail can pierce a vehicle. More than a dozen other private lawsuits blame the guardrails for five deaths and more injuries.
In October, after the federal jury verdict, Virginia’s Transportation Department threatened to remove the guardrails if Trinity did not do more tests. Soon after, the federal highway agency required further testing.

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