DETROIT (AP) - The federal government is suing a Japanese manufacturer it claims supplied defective material found in 100,000 bulletproof vests used by U.S. law enforcement officials.
A False Claims Act lawsuit has been filed against Osaka-based Toyobo Co. Ltd. and its American subsidiary, Toyobo America Inc.
Federal officials claim from 1999 to 2005 Toyobo manufactured and marketed Zylon, a polymer fiber used in the manufacture of bulletproof vests, despite knowing the fiber was defective and the company's manufacturing process was flawed. The lawsuit alleges the defective material reduced the strength of the vests and claims the company knew that Zylon degraded much faster than it had disclosed.
The vests were sold to a variety of body armor manufacturers, including Central Lake, Michigan-based Second Chance Body Armor Inc., and were then purchased using federal funds by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Toyobo officials said they believe the charges ''are without basis'' and mimic earlier allegations against Second Chance.
He said in 2001 Toyobo began aging tests on Zylon and reported results to bodyarmor manufacturers. Jarrell said the company asked manufacturers to consider the data when designing, producing and testing their vests.
Toyobo also claims it urged all manufacturers to inform their customers of the test results.
Previously, the United States intervened against Toyobo and Second Chance BodyArmor in a separate False Claims Act lawsuit stemming from defective Zylon bulletproof vests sold by Second Chance.
In 2005, Toyobo agreed to pay $29 million to settle a class-action suit by police officers and departments across the country that used Second Chance vests.