Jury Verdict Vindicates Whistleblower—Company Hit with Multi-Million Dollar Judgment
A swift multimillion verdict against guardrail manufacturer Trinity Industries gave Joshua Harman some measure of satisfaction this past October. Harman, a former player in the guardrail industry, had charged Trinity with secretly modifying the guardrails it manufactured for use on America’s highways, cheating the federal government out of millions of dollars. The jury agreed—to the tune of $175 million, an award that will be tripled, and will have penalties and fines added.
Harman has publicly chastised Trinity for its modification of the guardrails. He claimed that the changes, made without consulting the federal government, were causing cars to be impaled on guardrails rather than slowing them down. Trinity issued statements calling Harman a “professional plaintiff” who was making “baseless allegations,” unsuccessfully suing him twice for defamation. Trinity says it will appeal the verdict.
For Harman, his work is long from over. Though four states have temporarily banned any further installations of the Trinity Product, it is still approved for use by the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The FHTSA is looking into whether the jury verdict will have an impact on the Trinity product’s eligibility for highways across the country. Harman, meanwhile, continues to travel the country, talking to citizens and asking for a total product recall.
Trinity has contended throughout the process that Harman’s legal action was little more than an attempt at payback. Harman and his brother own two companies in Virginia that manufactured guardrail components with some similarities to Trinity’s product. Harman claims that he thought the patents had expired, but also contends that he stopped using the Trinity design after the infringement action was filed. Trinity refused to drop the lawsuit, but tried to get Harman to remove all infringing guardrails from American roadways. The lawsuit sent him into bankruptcy and resulted in the layoffs of most of his workforce.
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