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The Nation

Body Armor Firm Files for Protection

October 20, 2004|From Associated Press

CENTRAL LAKE, Mich. — Second Chance Body Armor Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after lawsuits in at least 10 states accused it of selling defective bulletproof vests to police officers.

One lawsuit says the company -- the nation's largest manufacturer of soft, concealable body armor for law enforcement -- is to blame for the shooting death of a California police officer. Another suit, brought by the state of Utah, led to a $210,000 settlement.

The bankruptcy petition, filed Sunday, puts the lawsuits on hold while Second Chance tries to work its way out of financial trouble.

The company announced in September 2003 that it had concerns about Zylon, the synthetic fiber used in the vests. Since then, lawsuits have been filed, federal and state investigations begun, and accusations have been traded between Second Chance and Zylon's producer, Toyobo Co. of Japan.

Toyobo has acknowledged that tests show Zylon loses 10% to 20% of its durability within two years of manufacture. But the company insisted the fiber worked well in body armor that was properly constructed.

Lawsuits also have been filed in Arizona, Texas, Massachusetts, Georgia, Illinois, Connecticut, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

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