The State of Tennessee billed a deceased teen for “damage to state property” and the costs involved in replacing a section of guardrail that malfunctioned and killed her in a November crash.
Hannah Eimers, 17, was killed instantly Nov. 1 when the 2000 Volvo S80 she was driving on I-75 near Niota, Tennessee, veered onto the median from the northbound lane and struck the end terminal of a guardrail.
Instead of collapsing like a telescope as it was designed to do, however, the Lindsay X-LITE guardrail system impaled the vehicle and struck Hannah in the head and neck, pushing her into the back seat and killing her instantly.
On Oct. 25, 2016, just one week before the fatal crash, the Tennessee Department of Transportation had removed the Lindsay X-LITE from its list of approved guardrails after tests found it did not always perform as intended at speeds over 60 mph. The speed on the stretch of interstate where Hannah crashed was 70 mph.
Last month, Steven Eimers of Lenoir City received a bill sent to Hannah, his daughter, for the damaged guardrail. Dated Feb. 24, the bill ordered Hannah to pay $2,970 for materials and labor.
“I’m shocked, the audacity,” Mr. Eimers told the Knoxville (Tennessee) News Sentinel. “What bothers me is that they’re playing Russian roulette with people’s lives. They know these devices do not perform at high speeds and in situations like my daughter’s accident, but they leave them in place.”
A Tennessee Transportation Department official told the News Sentinel that the bill was sent to Hannah because of a processing mix-up and apologized for the error.
The Transportation Department told the News Sentinel that about 1,000 of the guardrails remain on Tennessee roads and highways. The agency will start taking bids on March 31 for the removal of the guardrails that remain in places with a posted speed limit higher than 45 mph.
The News Sentinel also reports that the Virginia Department of Transportation removed the Lindsay X-LITE guardrail from its list of approved products about two months before Hannah Eimer’s crash. According to the News Sentinel, crash tests performed by an independent contractor found problems with the guardrails’ performance.
The News Sentinel also notes that Virginia’s emphasis on guardrail safety was prompted by the case of whistleblower Joshua Harman, who sued guardrail maker Trinity Industries under the False Claims Act, and won a record $663 million jury verdict. Mr. Harman claimed that Trinity altered the design of the end terminals on its ET-Plus guardrails without telling federal transportation officials of the change. Mr. Harman alleged the alterations saved Trinity production costs but made its guardrails unsafe.