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N.H. judge rejects class action lawsuit over Sig Sauer’s troubled pistol

photo of Sig Sauer's P320 pistol
Rouven74/Wikimedia Commons

A federal court judge has rejected a proposed class action lawsuit filed by an Arizona gun owner who argued his pistol, manufactured by Newington-based Sig Sauer, has lost value due to an alleged design flaw involving the weapon’s trigger. The decision means Sig Sauer, for now, avoids a financial hit that could have reached into the tens of millions of dollars.

The three-year long case centered on the claims of Derick Ortiz, a police officer from the town of Snowflake, A.Z, who said he wouldn’t have purchased, or would have paid less, for his model P320 if he had been aware of alleged “drop fire” incidents, in which the gun fires without a trigger pull.

Sig Sauer maintains the P320 is safe, but the company offers a free voluntary modification that swaps out certain components of the gun, including its trigger, in older models.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Joseph Laplante wrote in a brief text order that “after careful and lengthy consideration of the briefing, oral argument, and supplemental briefing, the court denies the motion for class certification in its entirety.” Laplante did not provide an explanation for his decision, instead noting that he will issue a complete written order at a later date.

Lawyers for both Ortiz and Sig Sauer didn’t respond to a request for comment. It isn’t clear if Ortiz will appeal the order.

The popular P320 pistol is used by law enforcement agencies across the country, and in 2017, was selected as the new sidearm for the U.S. Army, a contract worth up to $580 million. According to court records in the case, the Army discovered the P320 could fire when dropped at certain angles in 2016, prompting the company to modify its design. However, lawyers for Ortiz said the company continued to sell hundreds of thousands of P320s with the original design to the public and law enforcement agencies.

In August 2017, online gun seller Omaha Outdoors published a video detailing its concerns about the P320’s “extremely rare but still possible” potential for discharging when dropped. Immediately afterwards, Sig Sauer launched its voluntary upgrade, which retrofits the guns with a different trigger, as well as other components.

In his class action lawsuit, Ortiz argued that the weapon he originally purchased for approximately $500 has a “significantly diminished resale value.” Court transcripts show that an expert hired by Ortiz alleges the pistol’s are now worth “roughly 25 percent” less due to the alleged trigger flaw.

Photo of SIG Sauer sign outside company headquarters
Todd Bookman/NHPR

A similar proposed class action lawsuit was filed earlier this year in federal court in Missouri by a police officer seeking monetary damages for residents of that state who purchased a P320. According to court records in that matter, there have been at least 20 individual civil lawsuits against Sig Sauer nationwide filed by plaintiffs allegedly injured by an unintentional discharge of the gun.

One of those cases ended earlier this month, involving a Hillsborough man who alleged his P320 discharged without a trigger pull, resulting in a serious leg injury. U.S District Judge Landya McCafferty ruled that Sig Sauer had not violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act in how it markets the gun. Earlier this summer, a jury declined to award the same plaintiff, Kyle Guay, monetary damages.

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.

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