DHB Industries Inc. agrees to pay $45 million over Zylon vests

By James Bernstein

Florida subsidiaries of Westbury-based DHB Industries Inc. have agreed to spend more than $45 million to settle nationwide class-action suits over body armor vests containing the fiber Zylon.

The Atlanta law firm of Carr, Tabb & Pope Llp said yesterday that the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court of Broward County, Fla., issued a final approval order granting a product recall and a replacement of the bullet-resistant vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor Inc. and Protective Apparel Corporation of America Inc.

The law firm said that the settlement entitles all purchasers and owners of Point Blank, PACA and Galls brand vests containing Zylon to receive new, non-Zylon replacement vests and other benefits.

Additionally, the firm said, the companies must conduct substantial tests of their used body armor and make testing data, protocols and other information available to consumers.

Plaintiffs included the Southern States Police Benevolent Association and members of the Ohio Troopers Coalition.

In September, DHB was hit with a rash of shareholder lawsuits after it disclosed that it had set aside as much as $60 million to replace vests made from Zylon, a fiber that a U.S. Justice Department testing division said did not meet federal safety standards.

The suits allege that DHB must have known much earlier that the safety of the Zylon vests had come into question, and that the company misled investors by failing to make such disclosures.

David Cohen, an attorney with Carr, Tabb & Pope Llp, said that DHB agreed to the settlement.

Larry Ellis, DHB's president, said that the company has already begun removing Zylon vests from its inventory and supplying purchasers with non-Zylon vests. "This was all about trying to do the right thing," said Ellis, a retired U.S. Army general. "This has been ongoing. This is not new. As far as Zylon is concerned, we're finished."

Cohen said the DHB companies had manufactured more than 80,000 vests containing Zylon between 2000 and 2005. He said that the vests were sold throughout the country, including in New York State.

"We believe that Zylon was rushed to the market," Cohen said in an interview.

Carr, Tabb & Pope Llp has obtained settlements in other Zylon-related suits. In October, the firm secured a settlement with Armor Holdings Inc., providing a total economic value of $65 million to purchasers of vests made by American Body Armor, Safariland and Protech.

In September, the firm secured a $29 million settlement with Toyobo Co. Ltd. and Toyobo America Inc. on behalf of buyers of vests by Second Chance.  
Copyright 2007 Newsday, Inc.

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