$56 Million Settlement in Trinity Guardrail Litigation
Stueve Siegel Hanson reached a class action settlement valued at $56 million with Fortune 1000 transportation giant Trinity Industries and its manufacturing arm, Trinity Highway Products, to remove and replace the companies’ 4-inch ET Plus guardrail end terminals on Missouri roads. The settlement is believed to be the first successful resolution of product liability claims against Trinity on behalf of government entities seeking the cost of removing and replacing the 4-inch ET Plus devices.
Guardrail end terminals are the devices that sit on the traffic-facing ends of guardrails and are intended to protect motorists from impacts. After revelations in 2013 that Trinity concealed from federal and state regulators that it had shortened the width of the ET Plus device’s guide channels (a critical design feature) from five inches to four inches, the ET Plus was removed from the MoDOT’s approved products list—eventually 30 other states followed suit. The product has been linked to numerous catastrophic and fatal wrecks.
Representing Jackson County, Missouri and a certified class of Missouri counties, the City of St. Louis, and the Missouri Department of Transportation, the firm prosecuted product liability claims against Trinity for the cost of removing and replacing the 4-inch ET Plus from class member roads. This settlement provides class members with the products and money to do that, including:
- $3.5 million to reimburse class members that have removed and replaced 4-inch ET Plus devices;
- $2.5 million to reimburse class members for the cost of locating 4-inch ET Plus devices on their roads; and
- One MASH Type A Guardrail End Terminal ($2,000 value) plus a flat payment of $1,700 for each of the estimated 10,000+ 4-inch ET Plus devices currently on class members roads ($38 million value).
In addition, Trinity has also agreed to pay Class Counsel’s fees and expenses of $11.4 million, settlement administration costs of $175,000 and a $50,000 service award for Class Representative Jackson County.
“When Jackson County filed this lawsuit, the goal was to recover the funds necessary to remove and replace these dangerous devices from Missouri roads,” said Stueve, lead counsel for the class. “That’s exactly what this settlement provides. This settlement reflects the type of complete victory typically only won through a jury trial.”
This hard-fought litigation was initiated in 2015. After obtaining class certification, the firm successfully defeated Trinity’s motion for summary judgement, a motion to decertify the class, a petition to appeal the denial of class decertification, and several other interlocutory appeals. The parties reached a settlement in February on the verge of a class action trial set for April 2022. The settlement was preliminarily approved on May 30, 2022.
The case is Jackson County, Missouri v. Trinity Industries, Inc., et al.