Defective Bullet-Proof Vests Cost Canadian Firm, U.S. Subsidiary $4 Million

Lincoln Fabrics Ltd., a Canadian weaver of ballistic fabrics, and its American subsidiary, have agreed to pay the United States $4 million to settle the United States' lawsuit against Lincoln for violations of the False Claims Act in connection with its role in the weaving of Zylon fabric used in the manufacture and sale of defective Zylon bullet-proof vests, the Justice Department announced.

Using Zylon fiber manufactured by Toyobo Corp., Lincoln wove ballistic fabric for the body armor industry. Lincoln's woven Zylon fabric was used in the manufacture of Zylon bullet-proof vests sold by several companies, including Second Chance Body Armor Inc., First Choice Armor Inc., and Point Blank Body Armor Inc. These vests were purchased by the United States, and by various state, local, and/or tribal law enforcement agencies, who were partially reimbursed by the United States.

The United States alleged that the Zylon in these vests lost its ballistic capability quickly, especially when exposed to heat and humidity. The United States further alleged that Lincoln was aware of the defective nature of the Zylon by at least December 2001, but continued to sell Zylon for use in ballistic armor until August 2005, when the National Institute of Justice issued a report that Zylon degraded quickly in ballistic applications. At that time, according to DOJ, all American body armor manufacturers stopped using Zylon in body armor.

"Companies that knowingly sell the government defective bulletproof vests not only commit fraud, they put the lives of our law enforcement women and men at risk," said Tony West, assistant attorney general for DOJ's Civil Division. "We will pursue vigorously allegations that these or any other companies manufactured flawed vests, knew about their problems, yet sold them anyway."

DOJ noted that this settlement is part of a larger investigation of the body armor industry’s use of Zylon in body armor. As part of last week's agreement, Lincoln has pledged its cooperation in the government's ongoing investigation. The United States previously has settled with six other participants in the Zylon body armor industry for more than $54 million. Additionally, the United States has pending lawsuits against Toyobo Co., Honeywell Inc., Second Chance Body Armor Inc., and First Choice Armor Inc.

This settlement, which resolves the lawsuit filed by the United States in October 2009 against Lincoln, is also part of the government's emphasis on combating fraud, DOJ said.

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