A Connecticut police officer has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Sig Sauer for injuries he suffered when his department-issued P320 -- a version of U.S. Army's new service pistol -- accidentally discharged and wounded him in the leg after he dropped it.
Sig Sauer issued a statement Tuesday that it is offering a voluntary upgrade to address unintentional discharges. However, the gunmaker said the Army's Modular Handgun System is not affected by the upgrade.
Sig Sauer did not elaborate in its statement as to why the MHS is not included. The M17 is based on the P320, but it also includes a manual thumb safety.
"The M17 variant of the P320, selected by the U.S. government as the U.S. Army's Modular Handgun System (MHS), is not affected by the Voluntary Upgrade," the Aug. 8 release states.
"As a result of input from law enforcement, government and military customers, SIG has developed a number of enhancements in function, reliability, and overall safety including drop performance. SIG SAUER is offering these enhancements to its customers. Details of this program will be available at sigsauer.com on Monday, August 14, 2017."
The upgrade announcement comes days after officer Vincent Sheperis filed the Aug. 4 complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
Sheperis was loading equipment into the back of his car in January when he dropped his holstered P320. The gun accidentally fired when it hit the ground, and the 9mm bullet struck him beneath his left knee, according to his attorney, Jeff Bagnell.
Sheperis, a 34-year-old member of the department's Special Response Team, has undergone multiple surgeries but is back on light duty, according to Bagnell.
The lawsuit could require Sig Sauer to pay Sheperis more than $3 million in punitive and compensatory damages, Bagnell told Military.com.
"There are three counts in the complaint; the cover sheet requires us to state amounts in demand and what I wrote was 'greater to $1 million as to each count,' " Bagnell said.
Bagnell said that he takes the case very "seriously and the numbers reflect that."
"I think someone getting shot is extraordinary," he said. [Sig Sauer] "represented that it would not have happened; that the trigger would have to be pulled, and it wasn't pulled."
The three counts include violation of the Connecticut Product Liability Act; violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act; and a Connecticut common law tort, which is negligent infliction of emotional distress, said Bagnell, who would not elaborate on the counts.
Sheperis is also demanding Sig Sauer recall the pistol or include a warning that the gun is not drop safe when a round is chambered, Bagnell said.
Sig Sauer maintains in its statement that the P320 meets "U.S. standards for safety, including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/Sporting Arms Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute Inc. (SAAMI); National Institute of Justice (NIJ); as well as rigorous testing protocols for global military and law enforcement agencies."
The gunmaker concedes, however, that "recent events indicate that dropping the P320 beyond U.S. standards for safety may cause an unintentional discharge," according to the statement.
The Army told Military.com on Tuesday that "it is inappropriate for the Army to comment on matters of pending litigation," according to Wayne Hall, a spokesman for the Army.
In July, the leadership at Glock Inc. stated publicly that the Army's decision to select Sig Sauer to make its new MHS was driven by cost savings, not performance.
The Government Accountability Office denied Glock's protest of the Army's MHS decision, which Glock officials maintain was the result of "incomplete testing" and Sig Sauer's $102 million lower bid.
The Army maintains that the contract award to Sig Sauer "speaks for itself" and that it is satisfied with its selection, service officials said in July.
The Sheperis case could be settled out of court, but it may well go to a jury trial, Bagnell said.
"It could have killed him; it could have shot a bystander, so we take it very seriously," Bagnell said.