Laura Geller, 13News Now
A Hampton family filed a lawsuit against Trinity Industries, maker of the ET-Plus guardrail, after their son's death.
A photo of her son Adam, the word "love" and a heart hang on Donna Coster's neck. The necklace is close to her heart, where her baby boy will always be. She sees him now only in photos and memories never far from her mind.
The youngest of three boys, Adam was killed on October 9, 2011 when his car collided with a controversial guardrail in Newport News.
"You don't ever get over losing a child," Donna told 13News Now. "It gets softer, which I think it's started to, but it never goes away."
Adam Coster's family has filed a lawsuit against Trinity Industries, maker of the ET-Plus guardrail. The lawsuit is one of many alleging fraud and negligence by the Dallas-based company.
"[Trinity Industries] took away a very important part of our life," Donna said. "Our family chain is now broken. He's the missing piece of the puzzle. We're not complete anymore and they did that. They took him from us."
According to Virginia State Police, around 1:30 that fall morning, the 29-year-old was driving east on Interstate 64. His car ran off the road, striking a Trinity guardrail end terminal and careening over a small embankment. The family was told Adam swerved to avoid hitting a deer. He died at the scene. John and Donna got the news from their son Michael, who lived with Adam at the time.
"We were in bed and he walked into our bedroom and I just popped up and yelled 'What's wrong?'" Donna recalled.
The lawsuit alleges instead of "ribboning away," the ET-Plus guardrail end terminal pierced Adam's car and impaled his body. It's similar to the allegations we've found in lawsuits filed throughout the country.
"When they told us what happened I just had this sinking feeling in my chest and didn't want to believe it," Adam's father John Coster described.
Four years later, life without Adam is a new reality they are still having trouble believing. As the grieving parents come to grips with what happened, they realize other families are at risk of suffering the pain they endure.
An unknown number of ET-Plus end terminals are still on Virginia highways right now. VDOT is awaiting test results, which will help the agency decide if the devices need to be removed, but this and several other lawsuits say this version of the end terminal never should've been installed.
Complainants allege Trinity failed to disclose a design change, which critics say made the guardrail more dangerous in a crash. In a ruling Trinity is appealing, a federal judge already ordered the company to pay more than half a billion dollars for defrauding the government.
The Costers believe Adam's death was "the direct result of Trinity's acts and omissions," and have asked for a jury to decide what kind of damages they deserve.
For now, while they struggle to make it through another holiday season without Adam, they hold out hope their case will send a message.
"They need to be held accountable for their actions," Donna added. "There needs to be a consequence and I hope they learned from what they did, and I hope that other companies will learn from what they did and will not do anything to endanger people's lives anymore."
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