Budget handgun maker and designer of the famous “Judge” revolver that fires a .410 shotgun shell Forjas Taurus SA has found itself in hot water over several handgun models that some say will fire when dropped or have defective safeties.
After a nearly two-year-long court battle, Taurus has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought by gun owners who say the company allegedly knew about the purported defects and did nothing to fix it. According to court documents, Taurus agreed to a $39 million settlement, including $30 million for owners of nine separate handgun models who opt to send their pistols back.
Shooters who own one of the nine pistols could receive anywhere from $150 to $200 for their pistols depending on how many people choose to send them back.
The agreement will also extend the warranty for the nine handgun models, allowing gun owners to send the pistols back to have the handguns inspected by Taurus technicians and address the “safety defects” alleged in the suit.
Lawyers in the case tell Shooting Sports Retailer the settlement could include nearly one million handguns.
The settlement also calls for a maximum $9 million in attorney’s fees.
“I am satisfied with the agreement,” said U.S.-based Taurus Holdings President Anthony Acitelli in an interview. “Our number one concern is consumer safety, and I think we achieved that. If you look at most major manufacturers, you put humans into the equation and things happen. Our quality is much, much better than it has been in the past and you have to remember some of these issues are very old issues.”
The company does not admit any wrongdoing, however.
“The Taurus Companies do not admit liability in connection with the settlement,” Taurus said in a statement. “If anyone has one of these pistols, we are happy to inspect it under the warranty and suggest they send it to us so we can do so.”
This is not the first time Taurus has been in trouble over alleged problems with its guns.
In 2013, the company was forced to recall 98,000 24/7 DS pistols issued to the Brazilian police due to safety problems. Taurus has also struggled to burnish its image after many gun owners complained of quality control issues and poor customer service.
The latest settlement stems from a class action lawsuit brought by Chris Carter, a Scott County, Iowa, sheriff’s deputy who alleges his Taurus PT-140PRO discharged when it dropped out of his holster during a pursuit. Court documents say the pistol had the safety engaged and a round was fired from the gun with the case remaining in the chamber.
Carter also alleged in his September 2014 class action lawsuit that Taurus knew about the defect and did nothing to inform the public or fix the problem.
“Despite actual knowledge of the safety defects, Taurus has never remedied either defect, they’ve never issued an effective and complete warning to the public or recall of the Class Pistols and they continue to falsely represent to the public the Class Pistols are safe and reliable,” the lawsuit says. “In fact, Taurus is aware individuals have been seriously injured as a result of the safety defects, and it is only a matter of time before more individuals are seriously injured or killed.”
Court documents say Taurus was forced to pay a $1.2 million judgment when an Alabama man shot himself after his PT-111 dropped to the floor and discharged in 2009.
“Simply stated, the Class Pistols are defective and inherently dangerous, and Taurus has known about the defects for years, but has allowed the Class Pistols to remain in the hands of unsuspecting gun owners to the imminent risk of harm to the owners of the Class Pistols and the public,” according to the court documents.
The settlement agreement covers nine Taurus models, including the PT-111 Millennium; PT-132 Millennium; PT-138 Millennium; PT-140 Millennium; PT-145 Millennium; PT-745 Millennium; PT-609; PT-640 and PT-24/7, Taurus says.
Break From The Past
Taurus officials readily admit their handguns have suffered from poor quality, unresponsive customer service and bad PR, but Acitelli said the company has owned up to its mistakes and made a change for the better.
“A company that stands behind its product and is willing to do the right thing for the customer actually gives us credibility,” Acitelli said. “If you look at cases where companies had safety notices and recalls, the general public looks on that favorably and says this is a company that’s a good corporate citizen, that’s taking responsibility for their products, and we’re doing the right thing.”
“If you make a million guns, these things can happen,” Acitelli added.
Neither the settlement nor the allegations in the case include any of the newer Taurus G2 model pistols, the company claims.
An attorney close to the class action lawsuit alleging safety flaws in some Taurus pistols tells Shooting Sports Retailer the settlement agreement could impact as many as 966,000 handguns.
The lawyer — who has represented several clients in personal injury cases against Taurus — said the settlement includes a requirement that Taurus provide training to owners of the nine pistol models specified in the class action lawsuit on how to avoid unintended discharges.
“Our concern is that you’re not going to have 966,000 guns sent back,” the attorney said on the condition of anonymity. “So we want them to be able to see how to properly store the pistol so this won’t happen.”
The attorney confirmed the training was jointly developed by Taurus and plaintiff’s lawyers and includes never carrying the pistols with a round in the chamber unless the shooter is at the range. The training will be delivered via video and in written form to anyone who requests it, he added.
The settlement, which a judge approved in late July, calls for owners of the nine pistol models to send in their handguns for a cash payout of up to $200, have the pistol repaired at Taurus’ expense, or take the training. The lawyer said his clients were concerned gun owners wouldn’t want to send in their pistols for a fix, nor would they want a $200 refund for a pistol that might have cost double that to buy new.
In his preliminary approval of the settlement, the judge in the case required Taurus to publish instructions on how owners of the nine different pistols can make good on their claims by mid-October. Taurus is due to appear in court in early January to give final approval of the settlement deal.
Despite the difficulties with some of its legacy products, Acitelli says the company is back on track.
“We’re happy with where we are,” Acitelli said. “I think the customer is getting it. I think the dealers are getting it. We’ve done a lot of good things here and I think you’re starting to hear it in the marketplace.”