“Team Effort” Leads to $175 Million Texas Verdict in Defective Guardrail Lawsuit

Ward & Smith’s T. John Ward helps win milestone jury award

MARSHALL, Texas – A team of attorneys from New York, Florida and Texas have helped a whistleblower plaintiff and the U.S. government win a $175 million federal jury verdict against Dallas-based Trinity Industries Inc. for selling dangerous guardrail systems to the Federal Highway Administration.

The winning trial team was led by attorneys from Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, including New York partners Nicholas A. Gravante Jr. and George F. Carpinello and Florida partner Karen C. Dyer. Texas attorneys Samuel F. Baxter of McKool Smith in Dallas and former federal Judge T. John Ward of Ward & Smith in Longview also played key roles to help earn the victory.

“It was a pleasure to work alongside the excellent attorneys from Boies, Schiller & Flexner and my good friend Sam Baxter from McKool Smith. This was a true team effort,” says Judge Ward, who presented the plaintiffs’ opening statements and cross-examined the defendant’s damages expert. “We believed the evidence in this case clearly pointed to the defendant’s liability, and the jury certainly agreed.”

The case was decided on Oct. 20, 2014, following four days of trial and three hours of jury deliberations before the Hon. Rodney Gilstrap in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall.

During the trial, jurors heard evidence that Trinity Industries modified the design of its ET-Plus guardrails sometime between 2002 and 2005 without notifying the Federal Highway Administration. The new design is blamed for causing additional injuries to car crash victims across the U.S. The company’s attorneys argued that the ET-Plus system is safe and that the failure to report the design changes was an oversight.

The lawsuit was filed under the federal False Claims Act, which means the jury’s award will automatically be trebled to $525 million in addition to any statutory penalties that may be included. Those funds largely will be used to recall and replace the Trinity Industries guardrails that the company modified without alerting authorities, as required.

Longview, Texas-based Ward & Smith has tried more than 350 cases to verdict, earning a national reputation in high-stakes claims involving complex commercial litigation, intellectual property law, oil and gas matters, bad faith insurance claims, and serious personal injury claims. Ward & Smith frequently assists lawyers nationwide in complex cases before Texas juries.