Loudoun County, VA – A Loudoun County sheriff’s deputy has filed a lawsuit against SIG Sauer alleging that her fully-holstered duty weapon discharged and sent a bullet into her leg.
The incident occurred on Feb. 7, when 37-year-old Loudoun County Deputy Marcie Vadnais went to the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Academy to attend a general instructor course, the Loudoun Times-Mirror reported.
In accordance with academy policy, Deputy Vadnais began removing her firearm from her belt when she arrived.
According to the lawsuit, as she fed the belt through the holster’s first tooth, her SIG Sauer P320 somehow “fired one nine millimeter bullet, which hit her in the upper right thigh,” the Blast reported.
“At no time during this incident did she touch the trigger, which at all times was inside and covered by a SIG-manufactured holster,” the lawsuit read.
The round shattered the deputy’s femur “in several places” and caused “massive blood loss and other internal injuries,” according to the suit.
Deputy Vadnais, a 7-year veteran of the force, still has shrapnel and bone fragments embedded in her leg. A steel rod now holds her femur in place.
Due to the extent of her injuries, she will likely “have trouble ever running or walking normally again, and may not be able to return to her position as a result,” the lawsuit said.
The deputy said that SIG Sauer misled the public regarding the safety of the P320.
“We’ve designed safety elements into every necessary feature on this pistol,” the gun manufacturer said in an advertisement, according to the deputy’s suit. “From the trigger, to the striker and even the magazine, the P320 won’t fire unless you want it to.”
In April of 2016, the U.S. Army put the P320 through drop testing as part of a potential $580 million contract with SIG Sauer – but there was a problem, CNN reported.
“During drop testing in which an empty primed cartridge was inserted, the striker struck the primer causing a discharge,” the Department of Defense noted in a report, according to CNN.
In order to keep the deal, SIG Sauer fixed the problem by using “lightweight components in the trigger group mechanism,” the report said.
The upgrade was implemented by the time the military ran testing trials on the P320 in April of 2017, but the gun manufacturer continued to sell the pre-upgrade versions of the weapon to the general public for at least four months, according to CNN.
In August of 2017, the company offered to apply the fix for civilians, as well. By that time, over 500,000 pre-upgrade P320s had been sold to the general public.
The “voluntary upgrade” was “presented to the public as purely optional, not urgent, and not mandatory,” Deputy Vadnais’ lawsuit read, according to the Blast.
The program was touted as a means by which “to make existing commercial versions of the P320 ‘better’ by installing a much lighter trigger, and internal disconnect switch, and an improved sear to prevent accidental discharges,” the lawsuit said.
Deputy Vadnais wasn’t the only law enforcement officer who has experienced an unintended discharge of the P320, according to CNN.
In January of 2017, a SWAT team member in Connecticut said that a bullet hit him in the knee when he accidentally dropped his holstered weapon.
A holstered P320 went off when it was dropped inside a New Jersey police station in June of 2017, and another holstered gun discharged in Georgia when a police officer slipped and fell in October of 2017.
On March 29, a SWAT team member in Florida accidentally dropped his holstered weapon as he was leaving his home to respond to a possible hostage situation. The gun sent a bullet into his leg and shattered his tibia near his knee.
Deputy Vadnais is seeking to have SIG Sauer recall the weapon – a move she estimated would cost the gun manufacturer approximately $100 million, the Blast reported.
The deputy otherwise suggested that the company issue an “enhanced, unambiguous warning to all purchasers of the P320 stating that it can fire without a trigger pull in its existing condition.”
Deputy Vadnais is seeking $10 million in damages.