Somerset County detective sues gun manufacturer SIG Sauer alleging his pistol unintentionally discharged

The lawsuit alleges the gun manufacturer designed and negligently marketed a defective firearm.
Michael Bigos, David Cole and Kimberly Cole sit at a conference table in a law firm's office during a press conference.
Portland attorney Michael Bigos, left, Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy David A. Cole and Kimberly Cole at a press conference Monday announcing the Coles' lawsuit against SIG Sauer. Photo by Emmett Gartner.

A Somerset County sheriff’s deputy is suing gun manufacturer SIG Sauer, claiming his holstered SIG Sauer pistol fired into his leg without him touching the trigger, causing serious injuries.

The lawsuit filed by Detective David A. Cole in Somerset County Superior Court alleges the New Hampshire-based gun manufacturer designed a defective firearm and negligently marketed it without warning customers of its flaws.

The suit stems from an incident on May 4, 2022, when Cole and other law enforcement officers were executing a routine search warrant in Sangerville.

After a search was completed, Cole exited a building with both of his hands holding his jacket, away from his holstered sidearm, according to the lawsuit.

As he was walking to his vehicle, Cole and other officers heard a gunshot, immediately assuming that they were being fired upon.

“They took cover and they were waiting for what they thought was the worst,” one of Cole’s attorneys, Michael Bigos, said during a press conference on Monday.

It wasn’t until moments later that Cole realized he was struck by a bullet from his department-issued handgun, a SIG Sauer P320, which was holstered at his side.

The bullet fractured multiple bones in Cole’s right leg, entering and exiting through his thigh, re-entering by his calf, where it was then lodged in his ankle.

Cole was then taken to a nearby hospital for emergency surgery, followed by months of physical therapy and “permanent physical and emotional injury,” the lawsuit states.

Bigos said that the suit intends to hold SIG Sauer accountable for its “unreasonably dangerous designed firearm” and the injuries Cole sustained. 

Cole’s father, Cpl. Eugene Cole, was a Somerset County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in the line of duty in 2018.

Cole is one of dozens of plaintiffs who have filed similar suits against SIG Sauer, with the claim that the company’s P320 pistol — a popular sidearm for law enforcement departments and the military — unintentionally discharged without the user pulling the trigger.

Robert Zimmerman, another attorney representing Cole, said his Philadelphia law firm Saltz, Mongeluzzi and Bendesky is representing over 50 clients with active lawsuits against SIG Sauer.

Zimmerman said that in addition to seeking monetary compensation for Cole and his wife, Kimberly Cole, the lawsuit intends to protect other law enforcement officers and military members safe from a weapon that he alleges is defective and dangerous.

“There are law enforcement departments who still use the P320,” Zimmerman said, “and [SIG Sauer] has continued to make the decision to manufacture this weapon without the types of safeties that its competitors use.”

At the heart of Cole’s lawsuit is a claim that the P320 lacks “industry-standard safety features and fires without the user deliberately pulling the trigger.”

Despite SIG Sauer marketing the firearm as only firing when the user wants it to, the lawsuit alleges that the P320 lacks external safety features that similar pistols from other manufacturers use, making it susceptible to unintentional discharge.

The lawsuit also alleges that SIG Sauer knew the P320 was capable of firing unintentionally, but failed to warn customers of such flaws.

Though the company released two “voluntary upgrades” for the P320, the lawsuit states SIG Sauer never recalled the weapon — which it has done so for other products with less sales.

The Maine Monitor left a message on Monday afternoon with SIG Sauer’s media office seeking comment, but did not get an immediate response.

The company, in response to a story published earlier this year by The Washington Post and The Trace, denied that the P320 could fire without the trigger being pulled. 

Zimmerman said he hopes the lawsuit will make other law enforcement departments think twice about issuing the P320 to officers. 

“We hope that every law enforcement department in Maine and in New England and throughout the country will consider whether the P320 is a weapon that they want in their communities and protecting their officers,” Zimmerman said. 

According to Zimmerman, the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office rescinded its purchase order of the P320 following Cole’s incident, instead purchasing new weapons.

The Maine Monitor left messages for Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster and other department officials on Monday to corroborate Zimmerman’s statement, but did not receive a response by late Monday afternoon.

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Emmett Gartner

Emmett Gartner covers accountability and Maine's rural communities as a Roy W. Howard Fellow through the Scripps Howard Fund. Emmett earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the University of Vermont. While working as a reporter at the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, he helped produce two award-winning investigations: “Printing Hate,” which documented the historic role of newspapers inciting racial lynchings, and “Mega Billions,” which investigated state lottery operations. Most recently, Emmett reported on health and environment for The Frederick News-Post in Maryland. He previously worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon and interned for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
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