$29 Million Body Armor Private Class Action Settlement Gains Preliminary Approval
by Attorney General Greg Abbott
In August 2004, my office sued Second Chance Body Armor Inc., a maker of bulletproof vests, alleging that the vests did not perform as promised and seeking restitution for Texas purchasers of Second Chance vests containing the fiber Zylon. My great concern was that Texas law enforcement officers who depended on these vests would not have the protection they needed and expected in an emergency.
Seven other states also filed lawsuits against Second Chance, and several private class action lawsuits were filed against Second Chance as well as Toyobo, the maker of the Zylon fiber. In October, 2004, Second Chance filed for bankruptcy, stalling private litigation against the company. We continue to work toward a resolution of our claims against Second Chance through its bankruptcy counsel.
However, I am now pleased to learn that a $29 million class action settlement has been reached between consumers who purchased Second Chance Ultima, Ultimax, and Tri-Flex vests and defendants Toyobo Company, Ltd., and Toyobo America, Inc. The $29 million settlement fund will be divided among class members on a pro rata basis. There will be no reduction for costs of administration notice or attorney fees, as Toyobo has agreed to pay these separately.
What does this mean for you? If you purchased or own a Second Chance Ultima, Ultimax, or Tri-Flex vest, you should receive a notice of the proposed settlement of the private class action lawsuit, Lemming v. Toyobo. You will have two choices: opt out of the settlement or participate in it. If you do not respond to the notice, you will be counted as a participant.
If you are a member of the class and do not respond to the notice, your breach of warranty claims against Toyobo will be resolved through this new settlement. Claims against Second Chance itself, including the claims in the Texas lawsuit, will not be affected, but because of the companyís financial situation, chances of significant recovery from Second Chance are slim.
If you wish to participate in the class action, you do not need to respond to the notice when you receive it. However, in order to receive settlement proceeds, you must register your contact information at www.zylonvestclassaction.com by September 9, 2005.
Under the settlement with Toyobo, purchasers and owners of Second Chance vests containing Zylon, including the Ultima, Ultimax and TriFlex model will be entitled to choose between three options:
Option 1: Receive a cash share of the $29 million settlement fund. Class members selecting this option are free to use the money in any manner they choose.
Option 2: Purchase a replacement vest from Armor Holdings at the most favorable negotiated state contract and/or agency commercial prices made available by Armor directly to domestic law enforcement officers.
Option 3: Receive a nonrefundable credit or voucher from Armor worth $25 more than their share of cash from the Settlement Fund to purchase an Armor replacement vest or any other Armor product available from Armorís distributors.
The amount each officer or agency receives under the first option will depend on the total number of class members who participate in the settlement and submit bona fide claims. An estimated 100,000 owners and purchasers are involved, and a national notice campaign will inform class members of their rights.
The settlement is a welcome development in the ongoing Second Chance body armor case. While recovery of any money from Second Chance is uncertain, the settlement with Toyobo will provide owners and purchasers with the means for replacing equipment that could make a vital difference in their safety in the line of duty.
I cannot advise you about your decision about whether to participate in the Lemmings v. Toyobo class action, but I urge you to consider this opportunity carefully. The settlement fund is substantial and the various options provide you with a number of ways to recoup losses or replace your bulletproof vests.
Additional information about the Second Chance case in general is available on our website at www.oag.state.tx.us. For more information about the private class action settlement, you can visit the settlement website at www.zylonvestclassaction.com or call 1-877-567-2754. You must register your contact information on that website by September 9, 2005, to receive settlement proceeds. The settlement and your options as a consumer who purchased a zylon vest are very clearly explained in the settlement notice, which we have also posted on our website at www.oag.state.tx.us.