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Huge Verdict Against|Highway Guardrail Maker

DALLAS (CN) - A Texas jury on Monday awarded $525 million to the United States and a whistleblower who claimed that Trinity Industries changed the design of a highway guardrail without telling the Federal Highway Administration.

Whistleblower Joshua Harman sued Trinity Industries under the False Claims Act in 2011, claiming that in 2005 Trinity changed the design of its rail head - the steel sheet that keeps vehicles from going off the road - without telling the FHA.

Trinity then sold the guardrails to states that received federal reimbursement.

A federal jury on Monday awarded Harman and the United States $175 million, which will be tripled under federal law.

Harman claimed the design changes to the rail head, known as the ET-Plus, could cause the guardrail to be transformed into a spear during a crash, rather than pushing cars away from the rail, as intended.

Several states have sued Trinity since Harman filed his claim, including, most recently, Indiana.

Citing Harman, Indiana claimed in its July 18 lawsuit this year that "Between 2000 and 2005, Trinity secretly modified the ET-Plus extruder head to shrink the exit gap from approximately 1.5 inches to approximately 1.0 inch. This altered and unapproved product made its appearance on Indiana roadways during that time frame.

Trinity said it would appeal.

Trinity is a Delaware corporation based in Dallas.

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