July 11, 2017, PLLR E-Newsletter

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Guardrail impales driver after defective end unit fails

photo of guardrail along road

Suit against the end unit’s manufacturer and its parent company alleged that the product was defectively designed and manufactured and that it failed to meet the federal specifications for which it was approved. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant made unapproved modifications that prevented the unit from functioning as intended. The parties settled confidentially. Traylor v. Trinity Indus., Inc.
 

Jay Scott Traylor was driving on a highway in North Carolina when his car struck a guardrail that was fitted with an ET-Plus end terminal. The terminal, manufactured by Trinity Highway Products, LLC, comprised three main components—an impact plate, guide channels, and an extruder head. When attached to the end of a standard guardrail, the unit was designed to absorb and dissipate crash forces by permitting the guardrail to be extruded through the unit’s head and flattened out into a ribbon.

When Traylor’s car struck the guardrail, the ET-Plus end treatment failed to absorb to energy of the crash. Instead, it penetrated the driver’s side floorboard area of Traylor’s car and entered the occupant compartment, impaling him. He suffered life-threatening injuries resulting in bilateral leg amputations.

Traylor sued Trinity and its parent company, alleging that the ET-Plus was defectively designed and manufactured and that it failed to meet the federal specifications for which it was approved. The plaintiff claimed that Trinity made unapproved modifications that prevented the unit from performing as intended.

Specifically, the complaint alleged, between 2000 and 2005, a revised head component with a smaller exit gap began appearing on national highways and North Carolina roads. Moreover, the complaint charged, additional unapproved modifications to the unit made around 2005 reduced the internal area of the head component. The modification affected the unit’s ability to extrude a guardrail on impact and instead caused it to lock up, leading it to buckle, break, and act like a deadly spear.

The parties reached a confidential settlement.

Citation: Traylor v. Trinity Indus., Inc., No. DC-14-01965 (Tex. Dist. Ct. Dallas Cnty. May 2017).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Lisa Blue and Dean Gresham, both of Dallas; Ryan MacLeod, Jason A. Itkin, and AAJ member Robert J. Binstock, all of Houston; and Steven R. Lawrence, Fort Worth, Texas.