Trinity Industries lawsuit to be tried in Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) –  A guardrail lawsuit against Trinity Industries will now be tried at the Federal Courthouse in Norfolk.

A court in Texas, where the case originally started, denied the company’s motion to transfer the case to a different court in Northern Texas. Instead it landed here in Hampton Roads because of a car accident in Cape Charles off route 13 just North of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in November of 2011 involving the E-T-Plus guardrail system.

Jose and Victoria Evans are using Trinity Industries’ loss in a Texas courtroom last year as the basis of their allegations of fraud that led to their serious injuries. Next week will be one year since a Texas jury awarded a Virginia man $175 million in damages for his False Claims Act case against Trinity Industries, Incorporated. And now the Evans hope that verdict will work in their favor. But there’s more to the story.

The ET-Plus guardrail system in the Evans’ case is the same impact head we told you VDOT’s considering removing from Virginia roads that they were doing additional testing on just weeks ago after tests that Trinities’ guardrail system passed in the Spring. The Evans claim the ET-Plus guardrail involved in their crash failed in “dramatic fashion” because of the secret changes and cost-cutting measures a Virginia man based his federal whistle-blower lawsuit on that he won last year. They claim the guardrail rammed through the front driver-side door, puncturing the passenger compartment and as a result, Mr. Evans sustained various injuries including a fractured fibula and Mrs. Evans suffered a chest wall contusion. And they say Trinities fraudulent concealment of the modifications to the ET-Plus guardrail system years ago, prevented them from suspecting that their injuries could have been from a defective product. Trinity Industries denies its guardrails are unsafe.  However, a Norfolk judge agreed that at least that part of the Evans’ argument stands.

The Evans’ accident did involve another collision though that may come up in court.  We covered the story when a good samaritan who found Trooper L. Farlow in his patrol car came up on the crash, ran to the Trooper and got on the police radio to get help. The Trooper was flown to Norfolk Sentara General Hospital along with Mr. Evans who was later found guilty of reckless driving.

A spokesperson for Trinity says it wouldn’t be appropriate right now to comment. They moved to get this case dismissed based on the statute of limitations for personal injury claims which is typically two years. But the judge ruled that if the secret changes prevented people from suspecting their product, then the statute of limitations doesn’t apply.

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