The Missouri Department of Transportation has banned a type of highway guardrail implicated in the deaths of at least 14 motorists, including one Missouri man.
Missouri resident Brad Abeln was killed in January after another driver swerved and pushed him into the guardrail.
According to whistleblowers, the faulty guardrail contains a steel bar that should function as a shock absorber but instead acts as a sort of bayonet, piercing through the automobile body and injuring or killing those inside. A whistleblower trial against the manufacturer, Trinity Industries, is underway in a federal court in Texas.
The New York Times has found emails showing that official concerns about the fatal consequences of the guardrail design date back to 2012. Those concerns were not made public, and states did not begin banning the guardrail until this year.
In the wake of Abeln’s death, the state of Missouri and a non-profit advocacy group commissioned a study of the guardrail. The results showed that the guardrail had a fatality rate three times higher than that of a previous design. Missouri banned future purchases of the guardrail in late September.
The federal lawsuit against Trinity Industries alleges that the company secretly changed the guardrail design to save money, and then mislead state transportation departments to hasten purchases.
Several wrongful death lawsuits have been filed in relation to the guardrail, according to Bloomberg News.
The federal case is Harman v.Trinity Industries Inc. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The case number is 2:12-cv-00089.