A Georgia man who claims a defective Trinity Industries Inc. guardrail pierced the length of his car and severely injured him during a car crash is being allowed to proceed with his lawsuit against the company. In rejecting a motion to dismiss filed by Trinity and its Trinity Highway Products LLC subsidiary, U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey Jr. kept most of Plaintiff Bobby J. Chapman’s complaint alive. The only claim eliminated was a breach of warranty claim that Chapman voluntarily agreed to be dropped from his complaint.
Judge Duffey also refused to remand the case back to state court, finding that Trinity’s motion to remove the case to federal court was filed in time. The dispute arises from a May 2013 crash that occurred while Chapman was traveling north on Interstate 85 in Georgia. Chapman says he lost consciousness and his vehicle gradually veered off the road and into a guardrail. He claims the guard rail was defectively designed by Trinity in that it speared his vehicle through the front and exited through the back, seriously injuring him in the process.
Chapman first filed a suit in a Georgia state court in Fulton County two years after the crash. Trinity didn’t remove that case to federal court. Chapman dropped that action himself in July 2016. In January, with new representation, Chapman filed a new, but similar lawsuit, in the same court. Trinity removed that case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction the following month. Trinity then moved to dismiss the case in early March.
About two weeks later, Chapman moved to remand the case back to state court, arguing that Trinity was required to seek removal within 30 days of his original lawsuit, not 30 days after his second one. Meanwhile, he said the second Trinity is a new action and that the clock for removal started in January.
Judge Duffey agreed, finding that Chapman’s original Trinity was voluntarily dismissed and was thus “terminated completely,” so the second one constituted a new action and restarted the clock. As for Trinity’s dismissal motion, Judge Duffey ruled that the company had minimum contacts with Georgia as it was registered to do business in the state from 1987 to 2011 and that it hasn’t presented evidence contradicting Chapman’s argument that it dealt in guardrails, including the one at issue in the instant suit.
Judge Duffey said Trinity also failed to establish a “compelling case” that the court’s decision to exercise personal jurisdiction over it would be unfair. He added that Chapman lives in Georgia, the crash happened within the state’s borders and Trinity was registered to do business in the state for more than 20 years, including during the time when the guardrail was likely installed.
Chapman is represented by David N. Krugler of Cash Krugler & Fredericks LLC. The case is Chapman v. Trinity Highway Products LLC et al., case number 1:17-cv-00575, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.