June 28, 2017

Following Several Fatal Accidents, Victims’ Families Urge Federal Highway Authority to Protect Drivers From Dangerous Lindsay X-LITE Guardrails

TENNESSEE – Families of motorists killed by a dangerous guardrail device used on roadways across the country today called on the Federal Highway Association (FHWA) to aggressively and immediately address a safety issue that puts millions of drivers at risk every day. Manufactured by the Nebraska-based Lindsay Corporation (NYSE: LNN), the X-LITE guardrail model has claimed more than half a dozen lives nationwide, impaling vehicle passengers rather than telescoping into itself as the company claims the product is designed to do. Hoping to bring awareness to the issue and hold the company accountable, three families announced consumer safety protection litigation against the Lindsay Corporation and a fourth family announced its intention to file a similar suit in the coming weeks.

Safety concerns over the X-LITE model performance have been centered in Tennessee, which has seen repeated incidents of guardrail ends detaching and the rails themselves entering the vehicle. Since 2016 though, X-LITE has been linked to at least seven deaths nationwide in which the device impaled drivers and their vehicles upon impact along high-speed highways and interstates. According to the United States Department of Transportation, there are approximately 14,000 X-LITE units installed across the country currently. While the Tennessee Department of Transportation is currently in the process of removing the X-LITE guardrail ends statewide, the product remains in use in at least 29 states and Puerto Rico. More than 80% of currently installed devices are found in seven states: Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

“While nothing will bring Lauren back, my family and those of the other victims are committed to doing everything in our power to prevent these avoidable tragedies from reoccurring,” said LaDeana Gambill, whose daughter, Lauren Beuttel, was killed by a malfunctioning Lindsay X-LITE guardrail. “At the same time, the Lindsay Corporation must be held responsible for its actions, which have already claimed several lives.”

On Wednesday, the families of Lauren Beuttel, Jacob Davison and Wilbert Byrd announced lawsuits against the Lindsay Corporation and several related entities alleging negligence and liability. Additionally, the family of Hannah Eimers announced that they too will bring safety litigation. The details of these tragic incidents are as follows:

  • On June 29, 2016, Davison was driving Beuttel when the vehicle swerved into the median and struck an X-LITE guardrail in Cumberland County, Tennessee. The guardrail ends malfunctioned, allowing its main beams to pierce the vehicle through the front and the floor, violently striking and killing both passengers.
  • On July 2, 2016, 69-year-old Wilbert Byrd was killed in Chattanooga when, while a passenger in his car that his nephew was driving, the vehicle crashed into a Lindsay X-LITE guardrail end as the two were traveling from Detroit to attend a funeral in Georgia. Instead of buckling to absorb the impact of the collision, the guardrail traveled through the vehicle’s cabin, entering through the center dashboard and exiting the rear windshield. Over 60 feet of guardrail passed through the vehicle in a matter of seconds. In the process, Mr. Byrd’s left side was sliced by the guardrail, causing fatal injury.
  • On November 1, 2016, Steve Eimers lost his 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, when her vehicle collided with an X-LITE guardrail on the driver side. The rail pierced the driver side front door and sliced through to the rear passenger door, striking Hannah in the head and chest and thrusting her into the back seat of the car, killing her instantly.

Prior to commencing any legal action, Steve Eimers and his attorney, Ted Leopold of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, met with FHWA officials in April to voice the concerns of all three families. 

“The inaction of officials at the Federal Highway Administration, which is tasked with ensuring the safety of our nation’s roads, is simply unacceptable and contradicts its obligations to the public,” said Ted Leopold, Chair of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll’s Defective Products practice, which represents the Eimers, Beuttel, Davison and Byrd families. “The deaths of these victims and others across the country should and must compel FHWA and the Lindsay Corporation to act quickly in order to prevent further tragedies.”

The victims’ families believe policymakers, particularly at the federal level, have not done enough to curb the threat to motorists nationwide. FHWA is the nation’s leading authority on roadway safety and oversees funding efforts to disseminate product research to local authorities. In this capacity, the agency issues “letters of eligibility” signifying to local and state authorities that products, such as the X-LITE, have passed required crash tests. Yet experts say these letters are often the only guidance provided by FHWA and are based on manufacturer-conducted tests, opening the door for potentially defective or dangerous products to flood the marketplace.  

In the wake of these tragedies, some state and local officials have begun to take notice and raise concerns about the product’s safety. To date, more than a dozen states have either halted installation of the X-LITE device or removed it from their qualified product lists. On March 4, the Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner sent a letter to FHWA outlining the state’s concerns with the Lindsay X-LITE terminal, noting “unacceptable safety levels.” In April, Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander urged the FHWA to revoke the eligibility of the X-LITE terminal. New York’s state legislature is considering a bill that would ban the Lindsay X-LITE guardrail statewide and develop a plan to remove the product from state roadways.

But despite these state actions, officials from the FHWA continue to maintain that the agency has not seen adequate evidence that the X-LITE terminals are unsafe. While the agency is said to be gathering data and information from state and local authorities, FHWA officials say the department has found “no notable concerns” with its original assessment. An agency spokesperson recently asserted that its most recent survey of guardrail end terminal performance “does not lead to any conclusions that any of the devices, including the Lindsay X-LITE, are unsafe.”

June 28, 2017

CONTACT: Desmond Lee, 646-517-1826