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We have encountered this NPE exactly once before, over a year ago. It indicates that a private field is null, although this field is set to non-null in the constructor and never changed. This should never happen in Java, and therefore we determined this to be a JVM bug of some kind. We have not seen it a again. We declared the field 'final' out of paranoia.
As Charlie said, upgrading would be a good idea in any case, because 4.0 is an old release, preferably to JE 5.0.
For the record, our internal ticket for this issue is [#18955].
Edited by: greybird on Nov 25, 2011 8:04 AM