© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jury finds Sig Sauer liable for pistol shooting; awards $2.3M in damages

The Sig Sauer corporate office location at Pease International Tradeport in Newington, New Hampshire. Dan Tuohy photo / NHPR.
Dan Tuohy
The Sig Sauer corporate office location at Pease International Tradeport in Newington, New Hampshire. Dan Tuohy photo / NHPR.

A federal jury has awarded a Georgia man $2.3 million in a product liability case against gunmaker Sig Sauer, after he was shot by his own gun without allegedly pulling the trigger. The case appears to mark the first time the New Hampshire-based firearms manufacturer has been found liable for a misfiring P320 pistol, a gun at the center of dozens of other lawsuits claiming it has a design flaw that leaves it susceptible to unintentionally firing.

In this case, Robert Lang, who is described in court records as a lifelong gun enthusiast with “hundreds of hours behind the trigger,” sued Sig Sauer after he was shot in the thigh by his own P320 pistol in December 2018 while removing the gun from the holster.

“Before he could even lift the gun off of his belt, the weapon discharged,” according to his complaint. “The boom of the weapon firing had both his wife and son screaming.”

A jury found Sig Sauer was negligent for Lang’s injuries due to the design of the weapon, including that it lacked a trigger safety. Sig Sauer’s P320 pistol is one of the country’s most popular guns, with more than 2.5 million sold, according to court records.

In a statement, Sig Sauer said that it would appeal the ruling.

“Sig Sauer does not believe that the plaintiff has met his burden to prove the P320 model pistol was designed defectively or negligently as claimed,” the company said in a statement. “There are no facts on the record to support that Mr. Lang’s discharge claim was the result of anything other than his own negligent handling causing him to pull the trigger on the P320 pistol.”

Since 2018, Sig Sauer has been sued dozens of times by civilians and members of law enforcement who claim the P320 has a design flaw that leaves it susceptible to unintentional shootings. Until this week’s verdict in Georgia, none of those cases had resulted in a finding of liability against the company. The company did settle two cases out of court, both involving members of law enforcement who were injured when their department-issued guns fired, causing leg injuries.

“We were honored to represent Mr. Lang and are pleased that the jury saw the P320 for what it is: defective and dangerous,” said attorney Robert Zimmerman, who represented Lang in the Georgia case, and is involved in other lawsuits involving the P320. “We call upon Sig Sauer to redesign this pistol for the benefit of their law enforcement and private citizen customers, and look forward to the many more trials to continue to hold Sig Sauer accountable.”

In 2017, a prominent online gun shop raised concerns about the P320’s risk of firing when dropped at certain angles, which helped prompt the company to launch a voluntary upgrade of the gun, including hardware changes to the trigger and striker. The company maintains that the gun is safe, including in its original design.

That same year, the U.S. Army adopted a version of the P320 as its official sidearm in a deal valued at more than $500 million. The Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy followed suit in selecting the Sig Sauer pistol as its duty weapon. The military’s version of the gun, known as the M17 and M18, has an external safety.

Top stories of the day, 3X a week - subscribe today!

* indicates required

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.