Attorney General Sessions Condemns Companies That Sell Defective Equipment to First Responders

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a press release late today announcing a settlement in a 13-year long False Claims Act case. Toyobo Co. Ltd. of Japan and its American subsidiary, Toyobo U.S.A. Inc., f/k/a Toyobo America Inc. (collectively, Toyobo), have agreed to pay $66 million to resolve claims under the False Claims Act that they sold defective Zylon fiber used in bullet proof vests that the United States purchased for federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.  Continue Reading Bullet-Proof Vest Qui Tam Case Settles

As the research director for America’s largest body armor company, Dr. Aaron Westrick was the first official to oppose the sale of Zylon bulletproof vests. Based on his disclosures, these defective vests were forced off the market and police officers’ lives were saved.  Dr. Westrick was fired and his case is still ongoing.

Dr. Westrick will speak about his whistleblower experience on June 6th from 3:15 to 4:15 pm at the ArmorCon Expo in Tysons Corner, Virginia. His presentation is entitled “Combating Defective Armor: Protecting Our Warriors: The Path of a Whistleblower in the Armor Industry.”

Press interested in attending Dr. Westrick’s presentation please contact Lindsey Williams at lmw@whistleblowers.org.

Dr. Aaron Westrick

Dr. Aaron Westrick has won reinstatement of his claims under the California False Claims Act. Last Thursday, May 26, 2011, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District (in Los Angeles) issued its decision in State of California ex rel. Westrick v. Itochu International, Inc., Case No. B223053. On January 26, 2010, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County dismissed Westrick’s complaint, holding that his complaint did not plead the allegations of fraud with specificity. The Court of Appeal has now reversed and reinstated Westrick’s claims.

Dr. Westrick began his career as a police officer in Michigan. In 1982, he was shot by a fleeing burglar with a .357 Magnum from approximately five feet away. A Second Chance bulletproof vest, made of Kevlar, saved his life. Westrick subsequently earned a Ph.D. in sociology and criminal justice. In 1996, Second Chance hired Westrick as its director of research. On July 5, 2001, Dr. Westrick received a letter from the Japanese Toyobo Company stating that, “the strength of Zylon fiber decreases under high temperature and humidity conditions.” Dr. Westrick recognized that Zylon would degrade and that police officers would die while wearing "bullet-proof" vests made of Zylon. He asked his employer to recall its Zylon vests and have them tested.  In June 2003, Officer Tony Zeppetella of Oceanside, California, was killed when his $766 Zylon vest failed to stop two bullets. That same month, a police officer in Pennsylvania was seriously wounded when a bullet pierced his Zylon vest.

My colleague, Erik Snyder, presented Dr. Westrick’s argument to the Court of Appeal. It was Erik’s first oral argument. Based on this result, we can expect many more advances for whistleblower rights in Erik’s legal career. Congratulations to Erik and Dr. Westrick.

For more information about Dr. Westrick’s claims and the problems with Zylon, see this prior blog post. Some excerpts from the Court’s new decision follow in the continuation of this blog entry.

Continue Reading Westrick wins California appeal under state false claims act

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The U.S. Justice Department announced that it is suing First Choice Armor over its marketing of Zylon-based bullet-proof vests that the company knew would break down in heat or humidity. The suit follows disclosures by Dr. Aaron Westrick, a researcher for another manufacturer, who first opposed the use of Zylon for body protection.  Based on his disclosures, Zylon-based armor is now off the market, and officers lives have been saved.  Dr. Westrick was fired.

 

Continue Reading Government sues vest maker after whistleblower’s disclosures