Point Blank Enterprises, Inc. is the defendant in a proposed class action lawsuit that claims certain models of the bulletproof vest manufacturer’s concealable vests are defective and “cannot be reasonably relied upon for their intended use.” Echoing allegations made in a lawsuit filed back in October 2017, the 63-page complaint alleges the vests’ Self-Suspending Ballistic System (SSBS), the mechanism with which the products’ ballistic panels are connected to their carriers’ shoulder straps, is not industry-standard and “unexpectedly fall[s] apart in the line of duty” because it inherently does not have sufficient-enough strength to support the weight of the vest throughout its advertised lifespan.
“The defects in the SSBS render this life and death product unsuitable for use, regardless of whether the SSBS has already failed in the line of duty, as it has with Plaintiff,” the lawsuit alleges.
Traditional bulletproof vests, the case says, are comprised of two components: the ballistic panel system and the carrier/outer garment in which the ballistic panel is placed and worn by the user. The case explains that body armor manufacturers traditionally do not tamper with a device’s ballistic panels (pictured below), which absorb the impact of and projectile from a gunshot. For traditional bulletproof vests, according to the complaint, straps and suspension systems are generally incorporated into the device’s carrier such that should the shoulder straps or any Velcro component wear out, purchasers can simply order a new vest and swap out ballistic panels.
According to the suit, however, the defendant’s SSBS vest is set up differently in that the company has incorporated the suspension system directly into the ballistic panel system. The defendant’s SSBS vests, the lawsuit says, feature shoulder straps that connect to a Velcro-like material that’s sewn directly into the ballistic panels (shown below). Unlike typical vests, the case claims, the SSBS vests do not have their own shoulder straps or any other suspension system to hold them in place while they're being worn. Instead, the lawsuit states, the SSBS is stitched and tethered directly onto the ballistic fabric.
The below image from the lawsuit shows a single ballistic panel from an SSBS vest. At the top of the panel are the sewn-in Velcro-like c-clamps into which the shoulder straps are inserted. The following image, Figure 2, is a close-up included in the suit of the c-clamps.
The problem, according to the lawsuit, is that because the defendant’s SSBS is not part of the carrier as it is with a traditional bulletproof vest (shown below), the component can allegedly deteriorate and weaken to the point where the vest “does not have sufficient strength to securely support the weight of the vest when on an officer.” The case claims the SSBS can effectively fall apart well within its five-year useful lifespan. Moisture from sweat or rain, as well as constant tension and pulling on the SSBS, can also be a factor, the complaint continues, and can work to accelerate the SSBS’s deterioration.
According to the lawsuit, the defendant’s SSBS are prone to failure due to movement from the wearer. When the ballistic panels separate from the shoulder straps, the case says, the wearer must then “stop whatever he or she is doing, find a safe place, remove their uniform and find some way to hold the vest in place.”