Products Liability Law Daily ICE officer sues firearms maker for injuries resulting from allegedly defective firearm
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Friday, February 19, 2021

ICE officer sues firearms maker for injuries resulting from allegedly defective firearm

By Nicholas Kaster, J.D.

The complaint asserts that the manufacturer owed a duty to warn consumers and/or intended users of the weapon, including the officer, of known or suspected defects that rendered the gun unreasonably dangerous to handle or use.

Firearms manufacturer Sig Sauer, Inc. is the target of a lawsuit brought by an officer for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) in Pennsylvania. The officer’s complaint alleges that he was injured as a result of a defective weapon that fired without a trigger pull. The action was brought in a federal district court in Pennsylvania and asserts several claims, including strict products liability and negligence (Slatowski v. SIG Sauer, Inc., February 17, 2021, Surrick, R.).

Allegations. The matter involves a striker-fired, semi-automatic pistol known as the "P320" designed and manufactured by SIG Sauer, Inc. (SIG). According to the complaint, on September 21, 2020, when doing practice drills, the officer placed his hand on the pistol grip to draw the firearm out of his holster and the weapon fired. The officer never touched the weapon’s trigger. The bullet struck him in his upper right hip and exited out the back of his lower thigh, causing substantial injury, maceration of tissue, blood loss, and nerve damage. The officer claims to have suffered permanent physical injury and disfigurement as a direct and proximate result of the negligence and breach of warranties and deceptive marketing practices of SIG.

The officer also asserts that the weapon should not have discharged without the trigger being pulled, holstered or un-holstered. In marketing materials, SIG states that "the P320 won’t fire unless you want it to." Despite this express representation, which SIG has made for the last several years to the present, the weapon fired without the trigger bring pulled, according to the complaint. Moreover, the complaint alleges that SIG had knowledge long before this sale, that the P320, the manufacturer’s first ever striker-fired pistol, was capable of firing by itself without the trigger being pulled due to defective striker-sear components inside the weapon’s slide.

Further, for many years since the weapon was first introduced to the market in 2014, SIG has recklessly failed to recall the firearm despite knowing of many grievous wounds inflicted upon law enforcement, the complaint alleges. In addition, the complaint asserts that sometime after January 2017, when a Connecticut law enforcement agent was shot by a P320 when it fell to the ground from less than three feet, SIG amended its user manual to state that a "vibration" could cause the weapon to discharge. "No other firearms manufacturer has ever made such a representation," the complaint states.

Strict product liability. The complaint asserts that SIG is strictly liable because the firearm was designed, assembled, manufactured, sold, supplied, distributed, and/or placed into the stream of commerce in a defective condition, and that the defective conditions caused the officer’s injuries. It also alleges that the P320 was in a defective condition because: (1) the danger was unknowable and unacceptable to the average or ordinary consumer; and/or (2) a reasonable person would conclude that the probability and seriousness of the harm caused by the P320 outweighed the burden or costs of taking precautions.

Negligence. The negligence count asserts that, at all relevant times, SIG owed a duty to unambiguously warn consumers and/or intended users of the P320, including the officer, of known or suspected defects that rendered the gun unreasonably dangerous to handle or use. Further, SIG knew or had reason to know that the P320 posed an unreasonable risk of harm by virtue of informal and formal claims arising from substantially similar incidents, internal testing and research, industry publications and research, and other sources of information to be developed in discovery.

The complaint asserts that SIG was negligent by failing: (1) to use due care in designing and manufacturing the P320’s firing and striker assembly so as to prevent un-commanded discharges; (2) to use due care in designing and manufacturing the P320’s internal components, including its sear, and by omitting a mechanical disconnect switch, so as to prevent un-commanded discharges; (3) to issue a mandatory recall of the P320 as SIG had done in the past with other defective products; (4) to make reasonable tests and/or inspections to discover the defective, hazardous and unreasonably dangerous conditions relating to the gun’s propensity to discharge un-commanded; (5) to unambiguously warn purchasers and end users of the gun, including the officer, of the defective, hazardous and unreasonably dangerous conditions relating to its design and manufacture, which SIG knew or should have known through the exercise of ordinary care; (6) to discover the defective, hazardous and unreasonably dangerous conditions relating to the gun’s propensity to discharge un-commanded while in the possession of SIG; and (7) to place a warning about mere "vibration" of the gun in a conspicuous manner, such as on its case, which could be easily understood by a consumer, instead of relying on changing the user manual for the gun after several incidents of accidental discharges.

Other claims. The complaint also alleges breach of implied warranty of merchantability, breach of express warranty, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium.

Relief sought. The officer seeks compensatory and punitive damages, together with lawful interest, attorneys’ fees, costs of suit, and all other claims available by law.

The case is No. 2:21-cv-00729-RBS.

Attorneys: Jeffrey S. Bagnell (Jeffrey S. Bagnell, Esq., LLC) for Keith Slatowski. Robert W. Zimmerman (Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky P.C.) for Bianca Cemini Slatowski.

Companies: SIG Sauer, Inc.

MainStory: TopStory ComplaintNewsStory DesignManufacturingNews WarningsNews DamagesNews WeaponsFirearmsNews PennsylvaniaNews

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