Settlement reached in Sullivan Co. guardrail death lawsuit

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)  – A lawsuit filed by the family of a Tri-Cities woman killed in a car crash in 2008 has been settled out of court.

Sabrena Carrier died when her car hit a guardrail terminal along Highway 394 near Blountville.  The guardrail pierced her car, killing Carrier who worked as an emergency medical technician for Sullivan County EMS.

Sabrena Carter

Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2012 against Trinity Industries, the maker of the ET-Plus guardrail terminal, as well as the State of Tennessee and others.

The lawsuit claimed the terminal head failed, resulting in the guardrail impalement.

Public records obtained by News Channel 11 show the lawsuit was dismissed last year in Sullivan County, and the State of Tennessee paid a $20,000 settlement to the family of Sabrena Carrier.

Tennessee’s Attorney General Herb Slattery said the state’s settlement amounted to less than one percent of what the guardrail maker is paying.

READ: Settlement letter in the Sabrena Carrier case.pdf

 

In the letter, Slattery estimates the potential damages in the millions. “The potential damages in this case in the the range of $2.5 million – $3.5 million, not including punitive damages (which would not affect the State obviously),” Slattery wrote.

Neither Trinity Industries nor the Carrier family attorney would comment on the case saying the matter was confidential. “The case settled,” said Jeff Eller, Trinity spokesman. “We will not comment beyond that.”

“Regarding the disposition of the Carrier case, those matters are confidential and I cannot discuss them,” said Carrier family attorney Wayne Ritchie.

Slattery said the only reason the state agreed to pay money to the Carrier family was that there were witnesses who testified that the guardrail had been damaged months prior to the accident but never repaired by TDOT. “If this is indeed the case, the damaged guardrail could be deemed as being a reason the guardrail did not extrude as well as it should have,” Slattery wrote.

Carrier was 37 years-old at the time of the crash. She was survived by a son who was 12 years-old at the time.

The ET-Plus terminal involved in the crash had a 4-inch channel. After the 2008 crash, TDOT replaced the damaged guardrail terminal with the same type of terminal head.

In October 2014, TDOT removed that specific product from its approved products list after a federal judge in Texas ruled Trinity Industries committed fraud when it modified the terminal’s design without telling the government. Trinity has maintained it never intended to defraud anyone, and the ruling is under appeal.

Despite its removal from TDOT’s approved products list, the ET-Plus 4 inch terminals remain in use along Tennessee roads. TDOT’s Chief Engineer Paul Degges told News Channel 11 the state has not seen evidence of performance problems with the ET-Plus 4 inch terminal.

In Virginia, the department of transportation announced it’s removing the ET-Plus 4 inch in high-risk areas after conducting its own crash safety tests.

Copyright 2017 WJHL.  All rights reserved.

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