Tony Zeppetella was twenty-seven years old in June of 2003. He was a California police officer and the proud father of a six month old son named Jakob. The man, described in two sentences, sounds like the image of American potential – young, starting his family and pursuing his career in law enforcement.
But that month, Zeppetella would be shot during a routine traffic stop. A gang member with a stolen hand gun shot him in the chest as he approached the window, severing an artery in his chest. Zeppetella was able to return fire, but lost his life as a result of his injury.
This story is saddening, but certain details change the tone from unfortunate but a hazard of his job to horrifyingly reprehensible. First, there is the fact that Zeppetella was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time. And second, there is that the vest’s manufacturer, Second Chance Body Armor, had known for years that their products were defective, and had taken no action to warn or protect their consumers.
As early as 1998, executives at Second Chance Body Armor knew that the Zylon material they used in their vest was prone to degradation which could render the supposedly durable armor penetrable. The Zylon, which was supposed to be strong enough to stop a bullet, was known to be untrustworthy.
In a memo written in 2001, one Second Chance executive recommended that the company take immediate action to notify their customers of the degradation problems with the vest – a memo written not only before Zeppetella died, but before his defective vest was even manufactured. In this memo, he argued that “lives and our credibility are at stake.”
However by the next year, no action had yet been taken, and in another memo company president, Richard Davis outlined potential courses of action as he saw them. This outline included, “operating as though nothing is wrong until one of our customers is killed or wounded.” This “option,” as Second Chance put it, guaranteed that someone would injured, potentially fatally, eventually.
Second Chance did not warn its customers until September of 2003, when they recalled some 130,000 of their bulletproof vests. This number did not represent all of their Zylon products on the market, and in 2005 they recalled another 98,000. They company argued that they could simply not afford to replace all of their Zylon products, leaving many still in circulation. One has to wonder if at how Second Chance executives valued the lives of the young men and women who relied on their vests for protection as they protected and served.
In the years between learning of Zylon’s deficiencies and the recall of the Zylon body armor, hundreds of thousands of Second Chance Body Armor’s vests were sold both to law enforcement officers and military personnel. They were even worn by former president George W. Bush.
If you or someone you know has been injured because of a bad product, it is essential to find a skilled attorney and protect your own health and rights as soon as possible. Contact an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 and schedule a free consultation.