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Patrick DeBlase
Patrick DeBlase
Attorney •

Synthetic Vest Fails to Protect Law Enforcement Officers

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Protective vest manufacturer Second Chance Armor is found liable for defective vests using Zylon synthetic fibers which it knew would degrade over time.

Yesterday, a San Diego jury found the manufacturer and fiber supplier of protective vests liable for the death of a police officer who had been fatally shot in the chest by an ex-con. Second Chance Armor, Inc. manufactures these protective vests which police officers purchase because they are lighter and more comforable than their standard issue counterparts. Unfortunately, the synthetic fiber used in these vests, called “Zylon,” appears to degrade over time and well-within the warranty period of the vests. This makes the vests not fit for their intended purpose of saving lives. Zylon is manufactured and supplied to Second Chance by a Japanese company called Toyobo Co.

Individual and class actions have been filed in a number of states including state attorneys general actions in Arizona, Arkansas, Minnesota, and Texas.

According to the Arizona Attorney General, Second Chance Armor has known since at least 2001 that Zylon does in fact degrade over time yet has failed to warn or notify its product’s consumers of the hazards of these vests due to such degradation. The complaint states: “Based on tests conducted by Toyobo and provided to Second Chance during December 1998 through January 2003, Second Chance knew that Zylon rapidly and permanently loses strength when exposed to such common conditions as high humidity and heat, fluorescent light, and sunlight.” (State v. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., No. CV2004-000736 (Ariz., Maricopa County Super. Ct. amended complaint filed Aug. 13, 2004).)

Aaron Westrick, a former director of research for Second Chance, was fired from his position within the company because he testified in deposition about attempts by Second Chance executives to cover up the problems with Zylon. In fact, Mr. Westrick was fired during his deposition wherein he stated that he “strongly believed that this was a threat and that some police officer could be killed” and that he was asked to destroy critical documentation.