FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
After Raising Concerns with Officials Nationwide, Father of Hannah Eimers Files
Lawsuit to Hold Maker of Deadly X-LITE Guardrail Accountable
TENNESSEE – The father of a Tennessee teen killed by a dangerous guardrail device has filed consumer safety protection litigation against the companies involved in the product’s manufacturing and installation. Made by the Nebraska-based Lindsay Corporation (NYSE: LNN), the X-LITE guardrail model has claimed at least six lives, impaling vehicle passengers rather than telescoping into itself as the company claims the product is designed to do and posing a threat to drivers across the country. Since his daughter’s death one year ago next week, Steven Eimers has traveled around the country imploring federal and state officials to confront a safety concern that puts millions of drivers at risk every day.
On November 1, 2016, 17-year old Hannah Eimers was driving her family’s car on Interstate 75 North near McMinn County, Tennessee when her vehicle hit the median, striking a Lindsay X-LITE guardrail terminal designed to minimize injury in exactly that situation. But instead of deflecting the car or collapsing (or “telescoping”) to absorb the vehicle’s impact as designed, the guardrail terminal impaled Hannah’s car, striking her in the head and chest, thrusting her into the backseat and killing her instantly.
“Every day, my family must confront the never-ending nightmare of losing our beautiful daughter Hannah, a pain shared by many others across this country who have seen precious lives cut short by this dangerous product,” said Steve Eimers, father of Hannah Eimers. “Companies who profit from selling safety mechanisms and who create public hazards, instead of public safety, must accept responsibility and do everything possible to ensure these tragedies never happen again.”
Since 2016, X-LITE has been linked to at least six deaths nationwide in which the device impaled drivers and their vehicles upon impact along high-speed highways and interstates. 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. 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 has authorized the removal of 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.
In June 2017, the families of three other victims of crashes involving the X-LITE terminal filed lawsuits in Tennessee state court against Lindsay Corporation. The three victims – Lauren Beuttel, Jacob Davison, and Wilbert Byrd – were all killed by X-LITE terminals malfunctioning on impact, with the devices violently piercing the victim’s car instead of buckling when hit. In the case of Wilbert Byrd, over 60 feet of guardrail passed through his car in a matter of seconds after being struck.
“It is simply beyond belief that Lindsay Corporation has turned a blind eye to the serious danger posed to motorists,” said Ted Leopold, Chair of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll’s Defective Products practice, which represents Mr. Eimers, as well as the Beuttel, Davison and Byrd families. “The tragic loss of Hannah and victims across the country must compel action and we look forward to supporting and representing Mr. Eimers in his fight to hold those responsible accountable and bring greater safety to our nation’s roadways.”
“Instead of protecting motorists, Lindsay Corporation has continued to deflect responsibility for its role in jeopardizing the safety of drivers nationwide,” said Leslie Mitchell Kroeger, partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and a member of the plaintiffs’ legal team. “We are committed to rigorously pursuing justice for the Eimers’ family and supporting Mr. Eimers’ efforts to foster awareness and drive change that could save lives.”
Following his daughter’s death, Mr. Eimers, who is an emergency medical technician, began a campaign to raise awareness of the X-LITE’s threat to motorists and the lack of rigorous oversight at many safety and transportation agencies, pushing policymakers at the federal, state and local level to act. In April 2017, Mr. Eimers testified in front of the Tennessee House Transportation Committee, criticizing TDOT’s failure to recognize the risks posed by the X-LITE and calling for independent inspections and additional measures to combat improper installation of guardrails. That same month, Mr. Eimers, along with attorney, Ted Leopold of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, flew to Washington D.C. to meet with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials and deliver a letter in-person from the families of victims urging the agency to revoke its “letter of eligibility” for the X-LITE terminal. In May 2017, Mr. Eimers met with NY State Senator Catharine Young to urge state and federal officials to ban X-LITE terminals from the nation’s roadways, later joining her in a press conference to unveil legislation that would prohibit installation in New York.
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. Last year, the Government Accountability Office found the agency has no protocol for confirming the results of crash tests performed labs with questionable levels of independence.
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.” A month later, Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander urged the FHWA to revoke its letter of eligibility for the X-LITE terminal.
Despite some movement at the state and local levels, 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 stated in May the department had found “no notable concerns” with its original assessment. An agency memo dated May 3 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.”
The lawsuit announced today was filed in the Tennessee Circuit Court of McMinn County. It seeks relief for physical, mental and financial damages incurred by the Eimers family as the result of their daughter’s death. Mr. Eimers and his family are being represented by Ted Leopold and Leslie Mitchell Kroeger of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.
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Founded in 1969, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is recognized as one of the premier law firms in the country handling major, complex plaintiff-side litigation. With more than 90 attorneys, Cohen Milstein has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Ill., New York, N.Y., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Philadelphia, Pa., and Raleigh, N.C. For additional information, visit www.cohenmilstein.com or call (561)-515-1400.
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