Supplier Must Face Claims Over Defective Body Armor

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge ruled the government can revive parts of a False Claims Act lawsuit against a materials supplier that contracted with a now-defunct body armor maker over its failure to disclose damaging information about defective bulletproof vests.

The renewed claims had been tossed out two years ago, but U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said Friday the prior judge had failed to consider evidence indicating that the General Services Administration would not have purchased the vests from Second Chance Body Armor had it known the extent of the defects.

The government had contracted with Second Chance Body Armor Inc. from 1995 to 2001 after engaging with textile company Toyobo about the superiority of Zylon, the trademarked name for a synthetic polymer material.

According to Judge Friedman’s 36-page opinion, the effectiveness of the plastic Zylon fibers used in bulletproof vests declined by 7 percent over two years in certain conditions.

“At least as early as December 2001, Toyobo had knowledge of Zylon testing data demonstrating that degradation under conditions of heat and humidity was an ‘extremely serious problem’ for Zylon’s use in ballistics applications,” the ruling states.

However, both Toyobo and Second Chance Body Armor allegedly failed to disclose this fact to the government. According to the ruling, Second Chance told the government that the vests were guaranteed to perform during their five-year life spans.

Friedman noted that Toyobo made statements as late as 2005 that denied the cause of the degradation, while affirming that Zylon could be appropriately used for bulletproof vests.

According to the opinion, Toyobo was legally obligated to fully disclose its Zylon test results and data to the government while it was negotiating with other bulletproof-vest manufacturers.

“Toyobo’s omission or omissions therefore constituted false representations for the purposes of the United States’ fraudulent inducement FCA claim,” the opinion concludes.

As a result, Friedman found it appropriate to revive government claims for fraud, unjust enrichment and fraudulent inducement against Toyobo and Second Chance Body Armor.

A prior judge had denied the government’s motion for partial summary judgment in September 2015, and denied its motion for reconsideration in February 2016, ruling in favor of Toyobo and Second Chance for all vests sold prior to 2002.

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