Mar 12, 2018 – Stanley Mosk Superior Court, Los Angeles, CA
On Monday, March 12, 2018, Yukevich | Cavanaugh obtained a full defense verdict for its client in Capps et. al. v. Safariland, LLC. Plaintiff Sandra Capps, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy of 28 years, accidentally shot herself in the calf. She and her husband sought more than $2.5M, based on product liability design defect, and loss of consortium. A second sheriff’s deputy, of 31 years, Michael Lorenzi, also sued for $100,000, based on product liability design defect and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The Safariland 6280 holster, one of the most popular holsters nationwide amongst law enforcement and the US Military, is designed to carry a gun with a mounted light. The subject holster was specifically designed pursuant to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department specifications and chosen handgun with accessories, including the Surefire X300 light with DG switch and crimson trace laser. The light is larger than the trigger guard of the weapon, which necessitates an opening in the holster large enough to accommodate the light.
On the day of the incident, while on duty, Capps was carrying a backpack on her right shoulder. She later claimed the strap of her backpack fell into her holster on its own accord, and subsequently triggered the gun. Forensic reconstruction could not duplicate the incident as Plaintiff contended it occurred. Defense argued that Plaintiff had to have negligently holstered her firearm with the backpack strap through its trigger guard. As Capps removed her backpack at her car, she created a “pulley” with the strap wrapped through, over, and around her holster and firearm. The backpack pulled the strap, which fired the weapon. In this scenario, even Plaintiff agreed that her actions, as evidenced, would be negligent.
Michael Lorenzi’s incident, likewise, involved the deputy carrying a bag on his right shoulder—a large, heavy bag filled with wet scuba diving gear. As Deputy Lorenzi shrugged the bag off his shoulder, it fell to the ground; a plastic clip connected to the bag entered his holster, and triggered his duty firearm. Mr. Lorenzi sustained no physical injuries.
The Sheriff’s Department’s person most qualified regarding training testified that deputies are extensively warned, from day one, to be careful of carrying anything on their “gun-side,” and to not allow any foreign objects in the trigger guards of their weapons or holsters. (Stray objects can cause a holstered firearm to discharge.) Safariland argued that Deputies Capps and Lorenzi ignored their training. They could not claim to have expected any other outcome when they allowed foreign objects to enter their holsters. Safariland also argued that the numerous benefits of the holster, including its well-known ability to prevent an attacker from taking an officer’s firearm away and shooting the officer with his own weapon, far outweighed any risk of the design of the holster.
After an eight day trial, and 90 minutes of jury deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Safariland LLC was represented by partner Steven D. Smelser, and associates Bobbie N. Eftekar and Mitchell R. Charchalis.