(CN) – A Washington federal judge dismissed some conspiracy claims from a federal complaint accusing a company of making defective Zylon fibers that were used in bulletproof vests.
Toyobo, a Japanese textile manufacturer, produced synthetic Zylon fibers used in bulletproof vests and contracted with sold the fibers to three weaving companies through two distributors. Bulletproof vest manufacturers bought then woven Zylon to make their products, which were sold to the government from 1999 to 2005.
Product failures came to light and led to a safety recall after a California police officer was killed in 2003 when two bullets passed through his Zylon vest. Two years later, the National Institute of Justice found that the “bulk of the Zylon vests failed the testing.”
The government says Toyobo conspired with weavers and vest manufacturers to ignore knowledge of the Zylon fiber defects and use their product.
Toyobo allegedly first learned in 1997 that Zylon weakened when exposed to light and water. It told the vest manufactures about Zylon’s degredation issues in 2002, but did not disclose all the information it had available, the government claims.
The government also says Toyobo gave Zylon distributors and weavers incentives to continue using its defective Zylon by offering refunds and reimbursements for unsold aproducts.
Toyobo moved to dismiss the government’s complaint against Toyobo and its American subsidiary, alleging False Claims Act violations, conspiracy, unjust enrichment and fraud.
At this juncture, U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts ruled that the government failed to properly allege a conspiracy between Toyobo and the vest manufacturers.
“The government has alleged sufficiently its FCA conspiracy claims only as to the purported conspiracies between Toyobo and the Zylon weavers, not as to the purported conspiracies between Toyobo and any of the vest manufacturers,” Roberts wrote.
“The government’s allegations that the vest manufacturers were aware by mid-2001 that Zylon was defective yet continued to sell Zylon vests through 2005 are insufficient to aver that Toyobo and the vest manufacturers agreed to anything,” he added. “Moreover, the notion that Toyobo conspired with the vest manufacturers is inconsistent with the government’s allegations that Toyobo misrepresented the extent and severity of Zylon’s degradation to the vest manufacturers to induce them to continue to sell their vests to the government.”
Toyobo’s motion to dismiss was denied in all other respects, according to the Sept. 2 ruling. The company is currently being sued in Florida by bulletproof-vest manufacturers Point Blank Solutions and Point Blank Body Armor.