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What Exactly Was Decided in the P320 Verdict Against SIG SAUER?

SIG SAUER P320
Dan Z. for SNW

You may have heard about a recent jury verdict against SIG SAUER. If you haven’t, a federal court in Georgia awarded $2.3 million to Robert Lang who asserted – depending on which of his statements you read – that his P320 pistol either: 1) went off by itself, 2) was influenced by an unknown foreign object, or 3) discharged as Mr. Lang was removing it from his now-broken holster.  

This verdict was especially intriguing because thirteen other times attorneys have tried to convince either a judge or juries that there was an inherent design flaw in early SIG P320 trigger that could cause them to discharge “uncommanded.” All thirteen of those cases failed. No plaintiff has ever been able to show that the P320 will fire without the trigger being pulled.

So what was different in this case? The answer is as clear as a foggy London morning. But it’s no reach to say the Lang case was decidedly different from prior suits.

Apparently, Mr. Lang’s allegation didn’t require a lengthy evaluation of myriad of facts by the jury. Normally a trial asserting some sort of product safety issue would introduce hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of contradictory evidence, from “expert” testimony to design drawings.

The Lang case, in contrast, appeared to have been boiled down to its very essence. In product liability trials, that’s very different. And it’s reflected in the language of the verdict form that was submitted by the jury.

Reading this as written, it seems the jury was convinced that there was nothing wrong with what SIG built…aside from the fact that it lacked a “tabbed trigger” which they believe somehow constitutes a design defect. They didn’t decide the pistol had somehow malfunctioned, only that it should have had a tabbed trigger. 

The last time I checked, the features on a firearm dictate what you purchase. SIG doesn’t use a “tabbed” trigger in the P320 and that somehow constitutes “negligence”? My gun choices have always been driven by features I wanted.

Had Mr. Lang wanted a pistol with a tabbed trigger — which is a drop-safety device — he could have purchased a GLOCK or any of the other firearms that are sold with tabbed triggers. 

SIG SAUER P320 pistol
Dan Z. for SNW

SIG doesn’t put “tabbed triggers” in their pistols. And the tabbed trigger does nothing to prevent negligent discharges. Again, they’re designed to lessen the chances of an (inertia-caused) accidental discharge if the pistol is dropped. That would have done nothing in Mr. Lang’s situation, whether the trigger was pulled via a failed holster, a mysterious foreign object, or an accidental finger slip when drawing. 

SIG will appeal and they appear confident their appeal case is strong, but that’s up to the courts to decide.

Here’s SIG’s full statement:

SIG SAUER strongly disagrees with the verdict in the case of Lang v. Sig Sauer, Inc. and will be appealing the decision on multiple grounds. 

SIG SAUER does not believe that Plaintiff has met his burden to prove the P320 model pistol was designed defectively or negligently as claimed.  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.  Plaintiff and both his experts testified that they do not know what pulled the trigger or how the trigger was pulled, and they did not attempt to conduct any testing to confirm how the trigger could have been pulled, other than by Mr. Lang’s own finger.   

In this case, the plaintiff, Mr. Lang, initially admitted to the police that he accidentally discharged his gun while pulling it out of the holster, then later changed his story, stating that the firearm discharged without a trigger pull. However, the Plaintiff’s story notably changed again, after hiring trial experts who agreed that the SIG SAUER P320 could not discharge without the trigger being pulled.

The design of the SIG SAUER P320 model pistol is truly innovative and safe, with numerous related patents, including several relating to safety mechanisms. It is one of the most tested, and proven handguns in recent history, with versions being selected as the official sidearm of the U.S., Canadian, Australian, and Danish militaries, among many other military and law enforcement organizations worldwide. SIG SAUER is extremely proud of our long history of producing high-quality firearms and our unwavering dedication to safety.

From here, it looks like it will be quite a while before any checks made out to law firms will be cashed in this case. 

As always, we’ll keep you posted. 

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