By Kara Scannell
Ballistic-fiber supplier Toyobo /zigman2/quotes/205340851/delayed JP:3101 +1.31% Co. agreed to pay $29 million to settle a class-action suit that alleged it and the maker of bullet-proof vests sold body armor they knew to be defective.
The class covered by the suit, filed in an Oklahoma state court, includes police officers who bought vests made by Second Chance Body Armor Inc., of Central Lake, Mich., that contained Zylon, a high-tech fiber manufactured by Toyobo of Japan. The vests were sold under the brand names Ultima, Ultimax and Triflex.
Yesterday, the state judge overseeing the matter granted preliminary approval to the settlement, according to a Toyobo spokesman and the lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Under the terms of the pact, police officers can either receive cash from the settlement fund or buy Zylon or non-Zylon vests at a deep discount from Armor Holdings Inc., another maker of body armor that isn't connected to the class action.
"By creating the settlement fund, Toyobo is putting officer safety first and providing the means for police officers to purchase the replacement vests they need today," Toyobo said in a statement.
Second Chance, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection in 2004, remains a defendant in the litigation. A lawyer for the company said Second Chance has engaged in settlement talks, but they remain confidential.
Toyobo still faces a suit by the Justice Department that alleges both companies withheld information that showed the vests deteriorated more rapidly than expected when exposed to certain light, temperature and humidity conditions. Toyobo also has been sued by several state attorneys general and by the families of two police officers -- one killed and another injured while wearing the vests.
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