|NEWARK – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and the Division of Law will soon distribute a total of $173,778.90 to 63 New Jersey law enforcement agencies that purchased defective bulletproof vests made by Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., a manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy in 2004 after it was discovered that the vests’ protective armor failed and deteriorated over time.
"Police officers put their lives on the line each day to protect and serve us, and we need to do everything in our power to ensure that they are properly equipped for their jobs," said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. "We are not going to leave these agencies to foot the bill for defective body armor that put their officers at risk of injury or even death in the line of duty."
No New Jersey police officers are known to have suffered injuries as a result of failed bulletproof vests manufactured by Second Chance Body Armor. However, in two separate incidents in 2003, an Oceanside, California police officer and a Forest Hills, Pennsylvania police officer were both shot and suffered significant injuries when their Second Chance Body Armor vests reportedly failed. The California officer died from his injuries.
“The State of New Jersey has never given up on its goal to obtain restitution for the affected law enforcement agencies,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “We have finally reached a successful conclusion to a matter the state has been pursuing since we first learned that these so-called bulletproof vests were placing police officers at potential risk.”
The State of New Jersey, through the Division of Consumer Affairs and Division of Law, began pursuing restitution on behalf of New Jersey law enforcement agencies before Michigan-based Second Chance Body Armor filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004. The matter remained pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court over the past decade. The State of New Jersey received an Order for the distribution of funds in August 2013, and recently received the payment that is in the process of being distributed.
The Division of Consumer Affairs will distribute the funds to the affected agencies on a pro-rated basis. The Division initially reached out to approximately 100 police departments that, according to records, had purchased Zylon-based bulletproof vests from Second Chance Body Armor, and had not already received full reimbursement from a prior class action lawsuit or from New Jersey’s Body Armor Replacement Fund. The 63 police departments receiving funds are those that confirmed the specific amounts they were still owed.
Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Kant, of the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group within the Division of Law, represented the State of New Jersey in this matter with the assistance of Attorney Assistant Woodrow Carmona. Lead Investigator Van Mallett, of the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Case Initiation and Tracking Unit, is directing the distribution of funds.