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July 27 — A settlement agreement over allegedly defective pistols between Brazilian gunmaker Forjas Taurus S.A. and a plaintiff representing a class of gun owners has received final approval from a federal judge ( Carter v. Forjas Taurus, S.A., 2016 BL 236801 S.D. Fla., No. 1:13-cv-24583 , settlement approved 7/22/16 ).
The decision by Judge Patricia A. Seitz of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida certified a settlement class of nearly a million gun owners, overruled objections by five class members and approved the deal, including a $9 million attorneys' fee.
The settlement's value is about $30 million if the claim rate is low, up to a total estimated value of $239 million if every class member makes a claim, according to the court.
Plaintiff Chris Carter, a police officer, alleged nine pistol models are prone to firing when dropped and may even fire when the safety lever is engaged.
Plaintiff's attorney David L. Selby II said the settlement achieves the original goal of the suit, which was a remedy that would get the guns off the street.
“Taurus represented to the court that the returned guns will be destroyed,” Selby told Bloomberg BNA July 27.
John Marino, an attorney for Taurus, declined to comment on the settlement.
Taurus hasn't come up with a way to fix the PT140 Millenium pistol and similar models, according to the court. So currently, class members who participate have the choice of returning their pistols for replacement Taurus guns of a different model, with no time limitation, or returning them for a cash payment within a four-month claims period. Taurus will pay the shipping costs.
Taurus fought hard to shed the case and its board rejected the first settlement reached through mediation, according to the court. Experts for the plaintiff conducted about 500 hours of testing, the court said.
The testing, which spanned various pistol models and included the use of high-speed cameras, showed that a jolt or drop “allowed an intertia movement of the trigger,” Selby said. “The trigger would move as if you're pulling it.”
The claims administrator has described interest by affected owners so far as “pretty robust,” Selby said. But it's hard to tell what the return rate will be, he said.
Gun-defect class action settlements are rare, as are voluntary gun recalls. No agency has the authority to force a recall of defective firearms (44 PSLR 395, 4/18/16).
In February, Selby had said he was aware of about 10 injuries and one death due to alleged unintended discharges of the Taurus pistols (44 PSLR 372, 4/11/16).
Since then, he's become aware of at least one additional injury, he said.
Bailey & Glasser LLP, Morris, Haynes, Hornsby & Wheeles, and Leesfield & Partners, P.A. represented the class plaintiff.
Smith Gambrell & Russell LLP represented Taurus.
To contact the reporter on this story: Martina S. Barash in Washington at email@example.com
The opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Carter_v_Forjas_Taurus_SA_et_al_Docket_No_113cv24583_SD_Fla_Dec_2/2.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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