|U.S. District Court Judge Orders Defective Zylon “Bulletproof” Vest Case to Proceed|
Evidence Supports Findings that Japanese Manufacturer Improperly Withheld Information on Product Defects from Federal Government and Police Departments
Washington D.C. February 23, 2010. Today, Judge Richard W. Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied Toyobo's motion to dismiss a major suit regarding the sale of millions of dollars of defective bulletproof vests.
Dr. Aaron Westrick filed the suit under the Federal False Claims Act in 2004, and the U.S. government formally joined the suit in 2005. The suit alleges that Toyobo conspired with Second Chance Body Armor, Inc. to sell defective body armor made of Toyobo's Zylon material. Toyobo is a large, Japanese manufacturing company, which is publicly traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (stock code 3101).
Thousands of vests were sold to police departments across the United States and the federal government. One police officer was killed and others were injured as a result of the use of defective Zylon in vests. The suit alleges that Toyobo and the companies who sold these vests knew about Zylon defects and concealed this information from their customers.
The court denied Toyobo's motion to dismiss on all counts. The court found evidence that "Toyobo knew and participated" in fraudulent activity, "intended to defraud buyers of Zylon vests," and "decided not to warn customers in December 2001" of the defective Zylon.
Dr. Aaron Westrick, former research director for Second Chance who blew the whistle on this dangerous fraud said, "I am grateful for this decision. Back in 2001 I asked that police departments be warned that the Zylon vests they were selling were degrading. I was ignored, threatened, harassed and eventually fired. I had no choice but to file a whistleblower case to bring these crimes to the attention of the American people. I thank the honorable police officers and the Justice Department officials who have supported my efforts to bring Toyobo to justice. My thoughts go out to Jamie Zeppetella who lost her husband Tony, and Edward Limbacher who suffered permanant injuries, both as a result of Toyobo's defective vests."
Second Chance failed to warn customers of the defective vests for over three years after obtaining multi-million dollar "rebates" from Toyobo.
Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center and counsel for Dr. Aaron Westrick said, "The failure to warn customers of specific and direct threats to safety is a dangerous result of the predator marketing practices of these Japanese manufacturers, such as Toyobo. Not only did this company rip off the taxpayers, but it also put the lives of law enforcement personnel at risk to make a profit."
Westrick Memo from December 2001 asking Second Chance to warn customers
Decision of U.S. District Court to deny Toyobo's motion to dismiss
Background information on Dr. Aaron Westrick