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LeFante Law Offices

Wrongful Death Suit Against Trinity Industries


Claiming Failure of Guardrail System

PEORIA, IL, November 29, 2016 – Linda Young filed a wrongful death suit on behalf of her son, Omar Artis of Peoria, Illinois in the U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, Peoria Division. The suit was filed against Dallas, TX based Trinity Industries, manufacturer of the ET Plus Guardrail. The suit alleged failure of the guardrail end terminal system to properly and safely absorb the energy of the impacting vehicle driven by Omar Artis. Instead, the system failed and the guardrail pierced the car like a spear killing Omar Artis and seriously injuring two others, Roszaliyn and Courtney Drake of Pekin, Illinois. In addition to the wrongful death counts, this multi-count complaint also includes counts of negligence, strict products liability, willful and wanton conduct, breach of warranty, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The families are represented by James P. LeFante, LeFante Law Offices, P.C. and Jill M. Webb, Law Office of Jill M. Webb.

On April 9, 2015, Omar Artis was heading southbound on Interstate 155 near Lincoln, Illinois when the car he was driving veered off the road and struck the Trinity ET Plus Guardrail. The vehicle carrying Omar Artis and Roszaliyn and Courtney Drake was speared through the grill by the guardrail which then penetrated the passenger compartment, with the guardrail exiting the vehicle through the back windshield. Omar Artis was transported by Life Flight to a Peoria area hospital where he passed away. Roszaliyn and Courtney Drake were transported to local hospitals and each survived their injuries.

This lawsuit follows other complaints throughout America on behalf of persons who have been injured or killed when the ET Plus Guardrail failed to properly function and instead speared the vehicle injuring the vehicle occupants. The hope of the families in filing this suit is to bring attention to this issue so more families are aware and never have to face such a tragedy.

In a 2012 whistle blower lawsuit filed by self-described safety advocate Joshua Harmon, it was found that Trinity had quietly modified the design of the ET Plus system around 2005 without safety-testing it or reporting it to Federal or State governments, in particular the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Those design changes saved about $2 in materials per guardrail – a savings of approximately $50,000 per year to the company. According to lawsuits filed across the country, these changes caused injuries and death, rather than preventing them – in some cases impaling oncoming cars, such as in this particular lawsuit.

In a September 2014 report, ABC News claims to have obtained “internal Trinity emails” that shows Trinity personnel discussed keeping the design change secret. The report goes on to further state “Trinity told ABC News that because this was not a change that affected the performance of the system or end users’ installation or maintenance of the system, Trinity did not feel an independent announcement was necessary.”

In June 2015, federal judges upheld a jury verdict in Texas and ordered Trinity to pay $663 million for defrauding the government. – U.S. ex rel. Harman v. Trinity Industries Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, No. 12-00089.

Illinois is among 44 states that have banned future use of the ET Plus Guardrail system.

 

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