Making the decision to take whistleblower action can be daunting for a contractor or tenured employee. Exposing a deceptive company for practices that can seriously harm or kill other people may be a necessity for some people and may lead them to seek professional guidance. A man working as a guardrail installer was recently awarded $175 million by a federal jury after he suspected fraudulent practices by a Texas rail manufacturer and took whistleblower action.
The situation first took place when the man suspected the manufacturer of providing unsafe end caps that were being sold with highway guardrails. The rails were purchased and installed on many highways across the nation, potentially placing millions of people at risk. The suit claimed that the design change of the end caps allowed the rail to jam and create a dangerous spear-like shape instead of bending safely away from a crashed vehicle and helping it to slow.
Although the man works as a guardrail installer in another state, he was able to file a lawsuit under the False Claims Act against the Texas company after he suspected the dangerous and potentially fraudulent defect. The courts ruled in favor of the whistleblower after determining that the company had in fact falsified information given to federal officials in an attempt to camouflage unsafe changes that altered the end caps used. A series of lawsuits have been brought against the guardrail company for car accidents that resulted in serious harm or death due to the unsafe nature of the rails.
Investigators continue to look into the Texas company's manufacturing process in an attempt to determine if the guardrails do cause a risk to motorists. Anyone who suspects dangerous products have been marketed to consumers may also choose to take protective action, as this man has now successfully shown. Whistleblower action may be sought for many reasons and used to correct and expose unethical situations and fraudulent conduct.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Trinity Industries Whistleblower Awarded $175 Million in Guardrail Suit", Katy Stech, Oct. 20, 2014