A Jackson County circuit judge gave final approval on Aug. 30 to a $56 million class-action settlement that will help state and local agencies recover the costs of replacing faulty roadway safety equipment.
In a lawsuit originally filed in 2015, Jackson County alleged that Trinity Industries and its manufacturing arm, Trinity Highway Products, were liable for design flaws in guardrail end terminals that caused them to fail. Trinity did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.
Guardrail end terminals are devices intended to absorb the impact of vehicles that crash into the end of highway guardrails. According to the suit, in 2012 Trinity shortened the width of its ET Plus device’s guide channels from 5 inches to 4 inches, preventing the guardrail from passing through the terminal head as intended and allowed the guardrail to pierce the vehicle or otherwise injure or kill the vehicle’s occupants.
The settlement covers all Missouri counties with populations of at least 10,000 people, as well as the city of St. Louis and the Missouri Department of Transportation. The agreement provides $3.5 million in reimbursement for devices already removed, $2.5 million for the cost of locating the 10,500 devices estimated to remain and about $38 million to replace them.
The settlement also provides $11.4 million in attorneys’ fees and costs and a $50,000 service award for Jackson County for its role as the class representative.
In court documents urging approval, class counsel Patrick Stueve, Bradley Wilders and Alex Ricke of Stueve Siegel Hanson said no class members opted out, which was “no surprise” given the recovery.
“When Plaintiff Jackson County filed this case, it did so with the intention of making sure every class member could remove and replace Trinity’s 4-inch ET Plus. That is what this settlement accomplishes,” they wrote.
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$56 million settlement
Venue: Jackson County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 1516-CV23684/Aug. 30, 2022
Judge: Kenneth R. Garrett III
Caption: Jackson County, Missouri v. Trinity Industries Inc. and Trinity Highway Products LLC
Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Patrick J. Stueve, Bradley T. Wilders and Alex T. Ricke, Stueve Siegel Hanson, Kansas City (class counsel); John Schirger and Matt Lytle, Miller Schirger, Kansas City (for Jackson County)
Defendants’ Attorneys: James D. Griffin, Scharnhorst Ast Kennard Griffin, Kansas City; Susan Ford Robertson, The Robertson Law Group, Kansas City; Heidi Doerhoff Vollet, Cook, Vetter, Doerhoff, & Landwehr, Jefferson City; Brian S. Prestes, Bartlett Beck, Chicago.