Georgia gunmaker faces class action over allegedly defective pistols

At least one user fatally shot
Taurus is being sued in a Georgia federal court over an alleged defect with its GX4 pistols that can cause the guns to discharge when dropped. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Taurus is being sued in a Georgia federal court over an alleged defect with its GX4 pistols that can cause the guns to discharge when dropped. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

The Georgia-based maker of Taurus firearms has known for years about a defect in a range of pistols and done little to warn users about the fatal ability of the guns to fire when dropped, a new class action lawsuit alleges.

Taurus International Manufacturing Inc. and Taurus Holdings Inc., headquartered in Bainbridge, were sued in a Georgia federal court on Friday over the GX4 range of pistols that allegedly caused the accidental death of a 23-year-old Arizona woman and the nonfatal accidental shootings of pistol owners in Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.

Taurus, which moved its operation to Decatur County from Florida several years ago, has a safety notice on its website about the GX4 pistols, stating that some of the guns assembled and sold in the United States may, under certain circumstances, discharge when dropped. Owners are encouraged to stop using the pistols immediately and if eligible can have their guns inspected and repaired for free, according to the notice.

Lawyers who filed the suit told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the GX4 defect can’t be repaired and that many owners likely aren’t aware of the problem as Taurus hasn’t issued a recall. Alabama-based attorneys Todd Wheeles and David Selby said they represent several clients across the country affected by the GX4 issue and plan to file additional lawsuits against Taurus.

“We have been after Taurus for the last 15 years, give or take a year or two,” Selby said Monday. “The guns fire without pulling the trigger, and they fire when they shouldn’t fire.”

Taurus did not immediately respond Monday to questions about its GX4 pistols and the latest lawsuit.

Arizona resident Libardo Jaramillo, who sued Taurus on behalf of all GX4 pistol owners in the United States and its territories, said in his complaint Friday that Taurus’s online safety notice appeared in late May, more than a year after Taurus first became aware of the “drop-fire” issue. He claimed the safety warning is inadequate, in part because it doesn’t constitute a recall or offer owners proper compensation for their dangerous and worthless pistols.

“It is only a matter of time before more individuals are seriously injured or killed,” Jaramillo said in his lawsuit. “Despite knowing about the defect for several years, (the Taurus companies) consciously and intentionally decided not to recall the [GX4] pistols which they knew were unreasonably dangerous and defective.”

Taurus was sued in the same Georgia federal court over the same alleged issue in December 2022 by Kentucky resident Dakota Knipper, who claimed he was seriously injured in March 2022 when his Taurus GX4 pistol – purchased new that month – discharged after falling from a compartment of his vehicle and striking the pavement. Knipper, who was represented by Wheeles, voluntarily dismissed his case in April after reaching a confidential settlement with Taurus.

Wheeles and Selby were also involved in a separate class action against Taurus in a Florida federal court, in which they helped to secure a $239 million settlement on behalf of almost 1 million class members. The Florida case, in which the settlement was approved in 2016, was centered around the Millennium range of Taurus pistols, which also allegedly discharged when dropped.

Selby and Wheeles are also trying to revive a third class action filed against Taurus in Alabama, alleging the slide on certain pistols is prone to breaking apart and striking users in the face. Selby said one client was permanently blinded after firing one of those pistols at a gun range.

In Jaramillo’s multimillion-dollar case, he alleged that he bought a new Taurus GX4 pistol in February 2022 and kept it in a holster. He said he lent the firearm to Elise Hurrle, a friend who worked as a cashier at an Arizona convenience store.

In early April 2023, Hurrle dropped the pistol inside the holster while attempting to attach it to her waistband while at the store, Jaramillo claimed.

“When the pistol struck the ground, it fired, striking and immediately killing Ms. Hurrle,” Jaramillo said in his complaint. “She was 23 years old, and the mother of one child. Surveillance footage from the convenience store clearly depicts that this was a drop-fire.”

A separate lawsuit is pending over Hurrle’s death, Jaramillo said. His complaint cited Knipper’s accidental shooting in Kentucky as well as similar incidents allegedly involving Taurus GX4 pistols in Florida, Tennessee and Texas. Taurus was made aware of those incidents in May and early November, Jaramillo claimed.

He said a Taurus GX4 pistol fell from a table in the owner’s Florida home and fired when it struck the floor, shooting the owner. In Tennessee, one of the pistols allegedly fell from the owner’s arms and struck a driveway, discharging and shooting the owner. And in Texas, the owner of another Taurus GX4 pistol was allegedly shot when the gun fell onto bathroom tiles and discharged.

“For years, (the Taurus companies) have knowingly manufactured, marketed, and distributed thousands of defective (GX4) pistols to consumers throughout Georgia and the United States,” Jaramillo said in his complaint. “All the (GX4) pistols contain a defect which renders the pistols unreasonably dangerous and unfit for their intended use. Specifically, the defect causes the trigger of the [GX4] pistols to move rearward when the pistol is subjected to an impact or dropped.”

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, violations of Georgia’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. It seeks unspecified damages to compensate thousands of affected gun owners, including the profits Taurus made from producing the allegedly defective firearms.

Selby said the GX4 pistols have been produced by Taurus for about three years and are among the manufacturer’s most popular models.

“We certainly anticipate there unfortunately will be more (harmful incidents) because the guns are out there,” he said.