Over the past several weeks, a series of incidents and reports have surfaced indicating that not only can Sig Sauer, Inc.’s (Sig Sauer) P320 pistol fire when dropped, but that Sig Sauer may have been aware of the defect for a substantial period of time prior to these recent incidents and reports. For example, in early August, the Dallas Police Department suspended use of P320 pistols due to drop fire concerns and Vincent Sheperis, a Stamford, Conn. Police Officer, filed a $6 million lawsuit against Sig Sauer alleging that he was seriously injured when his Sig P320 pistol drop fired in January. In response to these reports and incidents, articles and videos surfaced across the Internet showing P320 pistols routinely failing user drop tests. (One widely shown test was conducted by Omaha Outdoors).
Sig Sauer, however, was not quick to publicly embrace the product safety allegations swirling around the P320 pistol. In an August 6 press release, Sig Sauer said it “has full confidence in the reliability, durability, and safety of its striker-fired handgun platform,” and claimed that “[t]here have been zero (0) reported drop-related P320 incidents in the U.S. commercial market, with hundreds of thousands of guns delivered to date,” making no mention of the law enforcement market, or the injuries that Officer Sheperis sustained. Then, just two days later, Sig Sauer reversed course and issued a “Voluntary Upgrade” of its P320 pistols, noting that “[r]ecent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond U.S. standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge.”
Sig Sauer’s “Voluntary Upgrade” notice does not disclose that the defective condition could lead to death or serious personal injury, or that consumers should stop using their pistols until they have been properly upgraded. Rather, the notice appears to be more of a public relations and marketing piece designed to tout the alleged virtues of the Sig P320, than an important recall notice to warn consumers of the dangers of the defective condition that could result in the pistols firing if dropped. The net effect of the “Voluntary Upgrade,” as implemented by Sig Sauer, is that consumers may not understand, or could be confused by, the inconsistent messages and unclear warnings provided by Sig Sauer.
There are important lessons to be learned:
- Take timely action. Any time a firearm manufacturer learns of a potential safety issue with one if its products, there is a narrow time frame in which to take the appropriate action. Act in a timely manner and limit delays.
- Clearly communicate the nature of the defect/issue, its potential consequences, and what must be done to avoid them, such as not using the firearm until It has been upgraded.
- Control the narrative. Engage in consistent, targeted messages. Successful recalls are implemented using consistent communications from the manufacturer to prevent rumors and speculation, as well as damage to the brand and loss of consumer loyalty.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP has substantial experience in counseling firearm manufacturers with regard to product recalls and upgrades. If you have any questions regarding how to implement a successful product recall or upgrade program for your company, contact John F. Renzulli.