Guardrail End Cap Lawsuits Over Fatal Accidents Lead Highway Officials To Move Away From New Design
Following a number of fatal accidents and wrongful death lawsuits over X-LITE guardrail, which allege that the design of the end caps are unreasonably dangerous and pose a risk of impaling vehicles during a crash, another state has decided to remove the product from their highways.
On February 5, the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) issued a press release (PDF) announcing that the state was temporarily discontinuing using X-LITE guardrail end treatments, and will completely remove them in the near future.
“Although Nebraska has no negative experiences with the X-LITE, there are enough questions around the nation regarding the in-service performance of the end treatment to cause NDOT to pause, take a step back, and see what steps the manufacturer takes to resolve these outstanding questions and concerns,” the press release states.
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The move comes after a wrongful death lawsuit filed in June by the families of Lauren Beuttel and Jacob D. Davison in Tennessee against Lindsay Corporation, the guardrail manufacturer, as well as Valmont Industries, Armorflex International, Barrier Systems and Cumberland Guardrail, Inc.
The lawsuit blamed the design of the guardrails for the deaths of Beuttel and Davison, who suffered injuries in a June 29, 2016 auto accident on Interstate 40 in Cumberland County.
The complaint indicates that the guardrail end terminal should have telescoped with the impact, absorbing and giving way to the vehicle enough to prevent injury and to slow it to a halt. The Toyota gave way instead, and Buettel, 21, and Davison, 18, were impaled and killed.
Similar conditions reportedly led to the deaths of Wilbert Byrd and Hannah Elmers in other recent auto accidents, all involving the X-Lite guardrail and all suggesting that the design of the guardrail played a factor in the deaths.
Concerns about the guardrail’s design are not limited to the victims’ families. In April, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, expressing concerns about the X-Lite guardrail design. The letter noted that TDOT field staff conducted field inspections and then had discussions with Lindsay Corporation over the X-Lite, but the letter states that the discussions did not end in a resolution to the state’s concerns.
“NDOT advises that the X-LITE will immediately be removed from the list of approved guardrail end treatments,” the Nebraska press release states. “In addition, the X-LITE end treatments currently installed on Nebraska highways will be removed in the near future and replaced with a different system.”
Nebraska joins Tennessee and Missouri, which have also decided to remove the X-Lite from those state’s roads. The guardrails are also used in Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
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