HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Trinity Industries, the maker of ET-Plus, a highway guardrail, was found liable in a $525 million lawsuit for fraud in Texas on Monday.
Mississippi has now taken action by prohibiting further installation of the ET-Plus guardrail system along the state's roadways.
The Magnolia State has now joined Missouri, Massachusetts, Virginia, Nevada and Oregon in banning the further purchase of the ET-Plus, citing safety concerns.
The maker (Trinity) is accused of selling guardrail systems that can malfunction during crashes and slice through vehicles.
Trinity implicated a design change in 2005 to its rail head, the flat piece of steel at the front of the system, and failed to notify the Federal Highway Administration. The company was found liable in the suit and will incur $175 million in damages which, under federal law, will be tripled to $525 million.
On Tuesday Seven on Your Side reached out to Southern District Transportation Commissioner Tom King for a comment regarding the Trinity lawsuit and the faulty guardrail systems that are in place in Mississippi.
"As far as we know, right now and currently there is no malfunctions in the guardrails that we use, we feel comfortable with what we have and we will continue to use those until the fellow highways tell us different," said Southern District Transportation Commissioner Tom King.
However, after correspondence with Mississippi Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Michael Flood regarding the use of the ET-Plus system, he claimed the guard rails were not in use in the state.
"The item identified in the lawsuit is not on our approved product list. We do have products from Trinity that have been federally tested and approved," said Michael Flood.
Despite Flood previously stating the ET-Plus was not on their approved product list, Floods comments did not explain why a guardrail on I-59 in Forrest County was labeled ET-Plus, the product listed in the Texas lawsuit.
When MDOT was presented with evidence from Seven on Your side, a photo showing the ET-Plus sticker on a guardrail, their statement changed.
"We have stopped use of the Trinity ET-Plus guardrail end treatment," said Mississippi Department of Transportation Spokesman Jarrod Ravencraft. "We are not planning to remove this product from our current highway system until additional crash testing mandated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is complete. FHWA has required Trinity to perform testing and to provide specific information back to them, "said Ravencraft.
Trinity is a major guardrail supplier nationwide, and the design change was expected to save the company millions. Multiple other lawsuits detail numerous deaths, and injuries related to the guardrail system.
"We have not experienced any issues with this product in our state, and there have been no reports of any faulty ET-Plus guardrail end treatments installed on MDOT right of way. We will not install any of the ET-Plus guardrail end treatments until FHWA completes their evaluation of this product's performance," said Ravencraft.
It is unclear exactly how many ET-Plus systems are in place across the state, but MDOT officials cited their approval to use the product came from the Federal Highway Administration, which is based on National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 350.
"The safety of the traveling public in Mississippi is our number one concern," said Ravencraft.