A Japanese manufacturer continues to face allegations that it knowingly helped produce thousands of defective bullet proof vests, after a federal judge refused to dismiss a False Claims Act suit against the company by the Justice Department.
Toyobo Co., represented by a team from Weil, Gotshal & Manges including partner Michael Lyle, produced ballistic Zylon fibers used in the vests, which were sold to law enforcement agencies across the United States by Jacksonville, Fla.-based Second Chance Body Armor. It is accused of hiding research showing that light, heat and humidity could cause the fibers to wear out faster than expected. At least one police officer was shot and killed after two bullets passed through a Second Chance vest, according to the Justice Department.
Toyobo argued that under it could not be held liable under the False Claims Act, because it was not responsible for selling the vests, only creating the material used in making them. However, Judge Richard Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that in deciding to downplay problems with Zylon, “Toyobo’s actions may constitute the underlying fraudulent conduct leading to Second Chance’s submission of false claims.”
Toyobo is one of several companies that has faced legal trouble over the sale of Zylon body armor. As of December, six companies had agreed to settlements with the Justice Department worth more than $47 million.
Toyobo’s lawyers did not immediately return calls for comment.