DOJ Sends Subpoena to Manufacturer of Controversial Guardrail Lining California Roadways

Feds requesting documents relating to ET-Plus guardrail end terminal

NBC Bay Area

The company that manufactures a controversial guardrail lining highways in California and across the country has been subpoenaed by the federal government, according to documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates.

According to a United States Securities and Exchange Commission report, “Trinity Industries received a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice through the U.S. Attorney for the District Of Massachusetts.”

The DOJ is requesting documents from 1999 through the present relating to its ”ET-2000 and ET-Plus guardrail end-terminal products.”

Click here to read the full SEC report.

Trinity, a highway manufacturing heavyweight, has been accused in lawsuits and complaints across the country of making a change to a widely used version of its guardrail end terminals, the ET-Plus.

The changes, according to the lawsuits, cause the metal railing of the guardrail to jam up inside the terminal chute, instead of passing through the chute and pigtailing out the side, away from the vehicle. The metal then sometimes pierces through a vehicle like a spear, cutting through cars and sometimes the people inside.

In October, a jury awarded $175 million in favor of Josh Harman, the whistleblower in the federal case brought under the False Claims Act. Harman is a competitor of Trinity who alerted the Federal Highway Administration to changes made to the ET-Plus.

Click here for more about the controversy surrounding the ET-Plus.

The ET-Plus was retested earlier this year after the FHWA ordered the Dallas-based company to conduct new crash tests for the highway safety product. It met all crash test criteria, according to federal highway safety officials. The demand for new testing came in October.

Some lawmakers are calling for new crash tests of the controversial guardrail after claiming the tests were “flawed.”

Click here to read more about the retesting.

According to the SEC filing, Trinity is aware of other lawsuits across the country filed against the company and "certain of its officers,” and the company believe the lawsuits are without merit.

The SEC requires that such inquiries be reported to the agency.

NBC 7 investigates reached out to Trinity for comment, but a spokesperson for the company directed us to the SEC filing. It says in part “the company intends to cooperate with this request.”

It is estimated there are 200,000 of the guardrail end terminals on roadways across the country.

The California Department of Transportation is in the process of taking a complete inventory of how many units are on state roadways, according to Matt Rocco, Caltrans Public Affairs Chief.

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