A gunmaker is accused of selling pistols with an “unreasonably dangerous” defect — leading to users getting unintentionally shot, including a young mother who died, according to a new federal lawsuit.
Some pistols sold by Taurus, a gun manufacturer whose U.S. subsidiary is headquartered in Georgia, can fire without a person pulling the trigger if the weapon is dropped or upon impact, a complaint filed Nov. 10 in U.S. District Court, Middle District of Georgia says.
Arizona resident Libardo Jaramillo lent his Taurus GX4 pistol to his friend Elise Hurrle, who died after dropping the weapon while working at a convenience store in Mesa, the complaint says.
On April 7, Hurrle removed the holstered pistol from the store’s checkout counter and tried attaching it to her waistband when she dropped it and a bullet was discharged, according to the complaint.
The 23-year-old mother of one child was struck by the gunfire and immediately killed in the incident captured on store surveillance footage, the complaint says.
The Mesa Police Department confirmed that the complaint accurately recounts the circumstances of Hurrle’s death at the ARCO gas station in Mesa on April 7, Det. Richard Encinas told McClatchy News in a statement on Nov. 15.
“When officers arrived, they found a female employee who was later identified as Valarie Elise Hurrle on the floor with a gun shot wound. She was transported to the hospital and pronounced deceased,” a statement provided by Encinas said.
Hurrle’s death was ruled an accident, according to Encinas.
Taurus pistols with the “drop-fire defect” include “All Series” or models of the Taurus GX4 pistols, the complaint says.
Jaramillo has filed a class action lawsuit naming Taurus Manufacturing and Taurus Holdings, the company’s “one hundred percent stockholder,” as defendants, the complaint shows.
McClatchy News contacted Taurus for comment on Nov. 15 and didn’t receive a response.
Taurus’ safety notice
On the homepage of Taurus’ website, it shares a safety notice for the Taurus GX4 pistols. According to the lawsuit, this safety notice was posted around May 23, about a month after Hurrle’s death.
“Some GX4 pistols assembled and sold only in the United States may, under certain circumstances, discharge when dropped.
”Safely unload and stop using your GX4 IMMEDIATELY. Failure to observe this warning may result in injury or death to you or others,” the safety alert says.
Taurus allows customers to search the serial number of their pistol to see whether their gun is associated with the notice.
The company also offers to inspect, repair and return affected pistols to owners at no cost, according to the alert.
Jaramillo’s lawsuit argues repair is “not possible” due to the ”nature of the defect” and says Taurus should destroy the pistols instead and give customers full refunds.
The safety notice is “inadequate” for this reason and a few others, including that the “notice is not a recall,” according to the complaint.
“Taurus has made no substantial efforts beyond a notice on their own website to make the public aware of this defect,” the complaint says.
Pistol users injured
Taurus is accused of knowing about its pistols’ “drop-fire defect” since April 2022. This is more than a year before it published its online safety notice — and when the company was made aware of another shooting incident in Kentucky, according to the complaint.
The owner of a Taurus GX4, 9mm pistol in Kentucky was shot after the weapon fell from the door of a pickup truck and discharged a round, the complaint says.
The complaint points out a separate lawsuit was filed by the Kentucky gun user against Taurus in the Middle District of Georgia in December.
According to that lawsuit, Dakota Knipper bought his Taurus GX4 pistol on March 7, 2022, and kept it loaded in the “door of his truck for personal protection.”
On March 23, 2022/, after having dinner with his girlfriend in Lexington, Knipper opened the driver’s side door of his truck and the pistol fell out and hit the pavement — firing a round into his left rib, the complaint filed by Knipper says.
The bullet exited his rib, struck his left bicep and then “exited his left shoulder” — leaving him with “permanent nerve damage,” according to the complaint.
In April, Knipper and Taurus agreed to dismiss the lawsuit, court records show. It’s unclear if a settlement was reached.
This isn’t the first time Taurus has been accused of selling gun models with defects related to accidental firings. In 2016, the company was sued in connection with their Rossi model guns allegedly discharging when dropped in the case of Burrow, et al. v. Forjas Taurus SA, et al filed in U.S. District Court, the Southern District of Florida.
In 2019, the lawsuit was settled for $38 million.
Jamarillo’s lawsuit cites more examples of Taurus GX4 pistols firing after they were dropped, injuring gun owners in Florida, Tennessee and Texas.
“The Drop-Fire Defect has manifested itself several times, sometimes causing serious bodily injury. Defendants are and were aware of those manifestations…but have refused to recall the Class Pistols,” the complaint says.
The lawsuit demands a trial by jury and seeks to recover damages.
Taurus “concealed and misrepresented the truth about the Class Pistols, the Defect, the inability to repair the Defect, and the fact that the Class Pistols are worthless,” the complaint says.